Explore the cutting-edge technology that will prepare the next generation of medical professionals at the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

By Nina Mastandrea


His breathing is almost inaudible—only creeping through the seams of the ambulance doors. It’s rhythmic, steady and accompanied by a curious clicking noise.

The source of the breathing and blinking is not human. It’s Hal.

Hal is just one of several highly complex patient simulators housed within the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences and only one component of the building’s seemingly endless catalog of technology and equipment.

Since the building’s completion in 2014, the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences has rapidly acquired tools of the trade in order to best prepare its students through experiential learning.

Nursing Students


Meet the Family

Though Hal is one of the more complex simulators, there are several task trainers and training simulators for students to master first.

The task trainers come in the form of sectioned arms and torsos and help students practice the basics: intravenous injections, airway clearing and resuscitation among others.

One step up introduces students to Nursing Anne—as the Norway-based medical education technology company, Laerdal, has named. Nursing Anne, and three of her family members, feature Bluetooth connectivity which allows the professor to control Anne’s breathing, heart rate and other important elements externally.

“The simulators give a real-time read out of their current conditions,” said Director of Emergency Medical Services and Management Gary Harmon. “Because of this, Lees-McRae students can see how they are doing in real time…if their chest compressions are effective, for example.”

This ultimately brings students to not only the most advanced human simulators in the building, but also within the world of medical human patient simulation.

Victoria, the school’s maternal and neonatal birthing simulator, accompanies Hal. Both are created by health care education company, Gaumard Scientific.

The two are tetherless, meaning they are completely independent—barring freedom of will. Their power supplies and communication hardware is housed completely within its frame, allowing students to transport and move the simulator where needed.

Vital signs can be tracked using real-life equipment such as an EKG machine, blood pressure cuff and others. The simulator’s eyes can dilate and track objects, students can listen to heart and breathing sounds and professors can teach students how to administer injections, practice sutures and an almost seemingly endless list of possibilities.

The simulators can be pre-programmed to reflect a wide variety of human-like responses, Harmon said, but can also be controlled through the simulator’s advanced software program.

“Sometimes we want to practice a particular situation, and so before class I, or one of the other faculty members, come in and preprogram an outcome,” Harmon said.

Even if that means a fatality.

“You have to be ready for any and all outcomes,” Harmon added. “But of course it was upsetting…it can be hard.”

Even if it is a simulator.

Victoria, in opposition to her male simulator counterpart, teaches students essential labor, delivery and several other obstetric procedures.

“Especially when it comes to child birth, students have to know what to do at the drop of a hat,” Harmon said. “With delivery, every situation is different and it can change in a matter of seconds.”

Victoria’s simulator offspring are just as impressive.

After birth, information is transferred from the silicone, water-safe infant to a wireless and tetherless high-fidelity simulator. With this, students can practice responding to common post-delivery emergencies such as “blue baby syndrome” and others.

The May School of Nursing and Health Sciences features a neonatal intensive unit filled with real-life equipment, including an infant incubator and radiant warmer.

Simply put, because students are able to practice real-life techniques in an almost real-life arena, “[the students] gain confidence,” which takes time to develop, Harmon said.



When it comes to education, real-world, hands-on experience is the name of the game.

Breakthrough technology has now brought us closer than ever before to the real thing—even the human body. Discover some of the main features of one of several patient simulators in the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The Ambulance in the Room

For the May School’s Emergency Medical Services and Management program, students can practice patient care in a real ambulance.

The three-ton removable “box” came to Lees-McRae between remountings. In many cases, the boxes can last upwards of 20 years, Harmon said, but the vehicle’s engines do not.

The one that is specifically within the May School came from Baptist Aircare in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

After a while they are purchased and used for training simulations, Harmon said.

The box is stocked with all standard tools and medicines found in a fully-functioning ambulance with a few additional elements installed for practice, of course.

Mounted to the ceiling of the ambulance is a 360-degree camera and two-way microphone. Just like the patient simulators, this gives faculty the chance to teach, direct and observe students without being in the room.

Students train by loading and unloading the ambulance, and get used to the physical limitations that come with caring for patients in the enclosed space.

“The room gives students the ability to practice again and again,” Harmon said. “It is fatiguing, but just like anything else, muscle memory can be your biggest aid.”

The ambulance, stocked with all the necessary equipment and simulation medicine, has a particular order to it—where everything goes and where it can be found.

“The organization of an ambulance is important,” Harmon said. “Especially in high-stress environments, the right kind of tools and medicine need to be found as quickly as possible.”

And Everything in Between

Though simulators and medicine must act as a stand-in for the real thing, everything else within the building is real.

The beds, EKG machines, examination tables, drug dispensing machines and everything in between are true, genuine equipment.

It only further advances the school’s mission to provide the most realistic training, Harmon said.

After having trained at Lees-McRae, graduates in the field will know how to work current hospital equipment, he added. “Though specific hospital protocol may vary, how to use the equipment will generally stay the same.”

One of the newest pieces of equipment within the school is a customized, $100,000 drug-dispensing machine by the company Omnicell.

Lees-McRae is one of few schools in the nation to have the equipment in their training center.

The machine allows for the control and inventory of all drugs, and in some cases, supplies.
Students can practice requesting and finding, usually under pressure, the right medicine needed for the job—which can be a trickier task than one may imagine.

“There are a lot of drugs that sound alike, and look alike,” Harmon said. “Mistakes are made, but isn’t it better to make those mistakes and learn in this environment?”

Harmon said the tools and technology students can practice with has come a long way since his early days.

“Back when I was learning, we used to perform on teddy bears,” he said. “To say the technology has come a long way would be a vast understatement.”

From details big and small, the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences will continue to develop new and cutting-edge ways to give its students the most true-to-life training before heading into the world of professional health care.


Nina Mastandrea, an award-winning journalist, works as content manager within the Office of Marketing and Communications. When she is not writing and/or sipping coffee, she is riding her bike in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Header photo courtesy of Anatomage.

Anatomage Table Demonstration


Take a deeper look at the world’s first virtual dissection table.

It looks like it should be something out of a sci-fi film, or perhaps a TV show like Bones, NCIS or CSI. As large as your average breakfast table, the Anatomage Table sits quietly—patiently—at the front of the first-floor classroom, awaiting its moment to whir to life in dazzling displays of the human anatomy. The table comes preloaded with several gross anatomy files or “cases” and hundreds more regional and specific examples of particular diseases and conditions.

However, its full touch-screen capability is where the Anatomage Table truly flaunts its abilities. After loading one of hundreds of real-life patient cases, the user can toggle their way through various levels of the human anatomy, from more superficial elements such as skin, muscles and the peripheral nervous system to the deeper layers—the organs, bones and central nervous system.

The opportunities for dissection exploration expand almost infinitely with the quick slide of the finger across the body in almost any direction, repositioning the body into thousands of new dissection plane combinations—sagittal (left and right body down the center), coronal (back and front body down the center) and transverse planes (horizontal to the ground, separating the head from the feet).

Oh but wait, there’s more.

The table has the capability to project it’s screen onto the wall—allowing an entire classroom of students to view the case on the table. It also comes preloaded with animal cases, making it useful to veterinary and wildlife rehabilitation programs. With frequent software updates, the table can stay cutting-edge and relevant to the medical world.

The Pinnacles

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