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The popularity of the problem-based learning paradigm has stimulated new interest in small group, interactive teaching techniques. Medical educators of physiology have long recognized the value of such methods, using animal-based laboratories to demonstrate difficult physiological principles. Due to ethical and other concerns, a replacement of this teaching tool has been sought. Here, the author describes the use of a full-scale human patient simulator for such a workshop. The simulator is a life-size mannequin with physical findings (palpable pulses, breath/heart sounds, blinking eyes, etc.) and sophisticated mechanical and software models of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. It can be connected to standard physiological monitors to reproduce a realistic clinical environment. In groups of 10, first-year medical students explore StarlingÂs law of the heart, the physiology of the Valsalva maneuver, and the function of the baroreceptor in a clinically realistic context using the simulator. With the use of a novel pre-/postworkshop assessment instrument that included student confidence in their answers, student confidence improved for all questions and survey items following the simulator session (P 85% of the students rating the workshop "very good" or "excellent."
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