VUMC uses computerized mannequins to teach proper technique for caring for COVID patients

By Wayne Wood, News and Communications

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread by droplets. If a COVID patient is in the hospital and needs to be intubated, it is essential that the process be done properly and safely.

Vanderbilt’s Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA), which allows the practice of critical care skills with computerized, lifelike mannequins during clinical scenarios, has prepared a video to educate clinicians about how to safely intubate COVID patients.

“The purpose of the training was to prepare the anesthesia attending faculty and residents for their service on the VUMC COVID airway team,” said Arna Banerjee, MD, associate professor of Anesthesiology/Critical Care and director of CELA.

“Placing a breathing tube in these patients places the providers doing this at a high risk of exposure due to their proximity to the patients mouth, therefore viral droplets.”

The COVID airway team is a group of anesthesiologists who respond to calls to intubate COVID-positive patients or initiate life support from a respiratory status.

“The video being filmed was intended to educate and equip anyone currently serving on the team, or asked to serve in the future, to confidently, calmly, and expertly intubate and initiate mechanical ventilation while protecting themselves and staff,” Banerjee said.

In the video, the training is provided by Louise Alexander, MD, instructor in Anesthesiology, and Melissa McKittrick, MD, senior anesthesiology resident, who both wear as personal protective equipment (PPE) powered air purifying respirators (PAPR). The camera was operated by Matthew Zapf, MD, senior anesthesiology resident.

In addition to the production of the video, CELA has also worked to train and refresh the training of many physicians on mechanical ventilation, in case they are needed to step into patient care roles in the event of a surge of COVID patients.

“It’s encouraging that our physicians see their own preparation and education as something that they can do right now for potential patients in the future,” Banerjee said.

“CELA is able to help prepare this high stakes team for their role fighting COVID-19 by providing state-of-the-art mannequins to simulate the patients clinical condition and as well as re-creating the operating room or ICU environment and equipment available during these emergency intubations.

“The video of these simulated events will greatly enhance the team members practical application and use of knowledge conveyed in the clinical environment. Along with patient safety right now, we need to protect the faculty and staff too.”

Those wanting to view the video may contact Banerjee at