Medical students care for mechanical patient that simulates symptoms of COVID-19

Anna Lorine picked an interesting time to become a healthcare provider.

The 29-year-old physician assistant student at the University Of Tampa, along with thousands of providers and students across the world, are being trained for dealing with COVID-19 using computer-controlled patient simulators.

"We want to make sure we are protecting our patients but also protecting ourselves," Lorine explained.

Physician assistant program director Johnna Yealy said they can create any scenario using the simulator.

"We can make him vomit, we can make him cry, we can make his heart rate 150, we can make his heart rate zero," Yealy said.

In this case, the simulator is exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19. The trainees first learned how to don protective clothing and face masks. Then they began to evaluate the maladies of the humanlike piece of equipment.

"When I saw the heart rate going up to 130 and the blood pressure dropping, my heart skipped a beat, as well," Lorine said. "It's really preparing us for the real world."

The simulator at UT is one of more than 10,000 distributed by CAE Healthcare in Sarasota.

"The challenge with [novel coronavirus] is that we don't know enough about it yet, so it's good to be overly-cautious," said Amar Patel, CAE's director of learning. 

Patel says protecting healthcare providers begins with basic measures, like washing hands, knowing how to correctly wear protective equipment, asking patients the right questions about their symptoms, and their recent travel and contacts. 

A CAE spokesperson says its simulators are also being used by several hospitals in the Tampa Bay area. She said simulation centers worldwide are in high demand for COVID-19 training. The company is also offering on-line webinars for healthcare providers.

If you feel sick

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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