by MATT MOLINAR//Associate Editor
After her daughter was diagnosed with diabetes at 9 years old, Tara Strawn immediately took into consideration the challenges her child would face in her developing years.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.4 million people are diagnosed with diabetes each year. This number includes children who will have to be introduced to a medical implement called a lancing device, which uses a thin steel needle to produce a blood droplet from the finger for a glucose reading.
“My daughter was diagnosed during Thanksgiving of 2010,” Strawn said. “She had to learn how to do all of this by herself. Imagine being 9 and having to learn how to intentionally stick yourself. It does hurt. My daughter was my inspiration, but my students were also my inspiration.”
This inspired Strawn to begin experimenting at home with a device that would allow patients to learn how to extract blood from their finger without having to practice on their own bodies.
Strawn, who currently works as an instructor in the high-fidelity Clinical Simulation Lab on the Reese Center campus of South Plains College while doing doctoral work at Grand Canyon University, got her start at SPC in 2004 as a part-time clinical instructor for the vocational nursing program at the Reese Center campus. She later took a full-time job as a vocational nursing instructor, though she later fell in love with the Simulation Lab.
“After graduating from Methodist School of Nursing in 1993 with my RN, I went on to Grand Canyon university, the Christian school where I got my master’s degree in nursing. I loved working with the vocational nurses. Now, I have fallen in love with simulation.”
For two years, Strawn experimented with ideas and materials that would fit over the finger of both patients, and simulation patients used in medical education.
Strawn calls the final product of her prototyping “Lance.”
“’Lance’ simulates a real skill that [health occupation] students need to learn,” Strawn explains. “Instead of having to stick each other, they can stick ‘Lance’ instead.”
The “Lance” contains a fluid that will allow the user, whether a student or patient, to have a reading of high, low or normal blood sugar levels.
“Our nursing and EMS students come into our simulation lab and and do lots of diabetic simulations,” Strawn said. “We used to just give our students a verbal number. They would just pretend that they had gotten a reading and would decide what the patient needed to regulate their blood sugar. They were just mimicking the actions instead of doing them.”
Strawn says the simulation lab aims to give students as close to a real life experience as they can get.
“They already know how to use their equipement,” Strawn said. “We want them to feel comfortable before they’re actually at the hospital.”
Among the many simulation aids available on the market, “Lance” is the first of its kind. Strawn began planning out prototypes and ordering materials, figuring out how to encapsulate the fluid into the device and how to seal off the “blood pockets.” So she consulted the help of an engineer.
“I looked for a company here in the United States that specialized in simulation,” Strawn said. “Although, many of them do not have the ability to contract with independent people. However, I found a team called Remedy Simulation Group out of Pennsylvania.”
Remedy Simulation Group is a small group of engineers that contracts with independent medical professionals to help create simulation products with 3D modeling. The models they create contain material that feels realistic and has many of the same characteristics as human skin.
The “Lance” Strawn had with her had been poked multiple times, though the fluid inside remained inside of the product.
“The vocational nurses from Levelland were the first to use ‘Lance,’” Strawn said. “They helped us with our beta testing. There were 21 students that each got to stick ‘Lance.’ So we needed a material that could self-seal. We want the students to learn how to stick, use the equipment and use clinical judgement on how to treat the patient. We also want them to feel comfortable before taking care of a real patient.”
The three different fingers, each containing either high, low, or neutral blood sugar levels, will retail for about $95 and will be refillable. Strawn plans to have a full launch sometime this spring.
[Photos by MATT MOLINAR/PLAINSMAN PRESS]