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UD Engineering Students Help Avkin Target Simulated Colostomy Care


Simulated colostomy care has real benefit for patients

Article By: University of Delaware Tumblr

Thousands of people have bowel problems that require a colostomy - a surgical procedure that removes solid waste through an abdominal opening instead of through the usual digestive tract. Such problems may include cancer, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, gunshot wounds, incontinence and bowel obstructions. And though colostomies are not always permanent, they all require regular cleaning, component changes and sensitive contact that is hard to teach by textbook, video or plastic manikin.

It's that kind of procedure that University of Delaware nurse educator Amy Cowperthwait has targeted in her innovative line of Avkin products, all equipped with electronic sensors, realistic materials and the components necessary to provide "hands-on" training with such things as tracheostomies, catheter placement and drawing blood. The devices are designed to be worn by another person - sometimes actors, sometimes other students. That person gets signals - vibrations - to cue specific patient responses. Sometimes it is pain or discomfort when procedures are done incorrectly. Other times, it is pain relief. The interactions help the trainee develop communication skills while completing psychomotor skills essential to the profession.

A team of four engineering students - Christopher Bresette of Greenville, S.C., El Grasso of Shelburne, Vt., Kevin MacMillan of Needham, Mass., and Olivia Smith of Wilmington, Del. - developed the colostomy simulator, which allows trainees to practice cleaning the "stoma" site (the opening in the abdominal wall), listen to bowel sounds and get used to the smells and patient-teaching skills that are required when they care for a person with a colostomy.

Clinicians who have tested the prototype are excited about it, Kevin said. Some said their first encounter with colostomies was with a patient in a hospital, which can be overwhelming if you are not prepared for what you will see, smell and feel. Patients often have traumatic emotions and difficulty accepting their "new normal" and need an empathetic caregiver who can help them talk about it.

"I liked working on a project that was going to have a clear impact on reducing patient discomfort via better training of nurses," Olivia said. 

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