VOLUME 23 #1

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UD students demonstrating the simutrach device
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
Nursing students demonstrate SimuTrach on Healthcare Theatre actor Neil Redfield, AS14, during a visit from Laerdal Medical last year.

Winning simulation

Engineering students invent device to improve nursing education

OUR STUDENTS | A tracheostomy—the opening in the windpipe that provides an airway for breathing through a tube rather than through the nose and mouth—is generally performed in an operating room, under general anesthesia.

At UD, it’s done in a classroom. Not a traditional classroom, by any means; rather, a classroom where health care professionals develop communication and treatment skills through interactive scenarios with theatre students as their patients.

In 2013, the Healthcare Theatre Program developed two patented products for patients/actors—a Tracheostomy Care Overlay System and an Overlay Chest Compressor. Last year, a group of innovative engineering students took this technology one step further.

SimuTrach, an enhanced learning device for the care of tracheostomy patients, was developed as a senior class project in 2014 by biomedical engineering students Brad Biggs, Devon Bond and Nick Campagnola, mechanical engineering students Ed Doll and Nate Hott and electrical engineering student Francis Rivera. The device offers a number of benefits over the use of manikins for tracheostomy training, including reduced cost, increased portability and ease of use.

“It also offers an improved educational experience for the student and increased communication with the patient, and it enables the instructor to get a complete picture of the student’s performance,” Campagnola said.

What began as a class project has quickly grown into a viable, marketable product.

Last summer, the students met with a representative from Laerdal Medical, a company that provides educational and therapy products for lifesaving and emergency medical care.

By fall, SimuTrach had been selected as the first-place technology innovation winner by the 15th International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH 2015) Scientific Content Committee, which referred to the overlay system as “exceptional work.”

“This project is a great example of what UD students can do,” said Jenni Buckley, assistant professor and mechanical engineering senior design course instructor. “They brought the idea all the way from a clinician’s concept sketch to really mature, functional prototypes. They designed and ran clinical trials, which showed the effectiveness of the systems in training nurses, and they submitted the results for publication in a medical journal. Then they finished it all off by pitching their design to a major medical simulation company.”

SimuTrach is currently on its third prototype, with each version offering improved features and functionality, from the lung sound to the skin feel.

The team is now working on branding, pricing, identifying partners and creating a marketing plan. They have identified up to 5,000 potential customers for the device in the U.S. alone, including nursing institutions, respiratory therapy clinics and medical practices.

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