Inexpensive Med Scanner System for Simulated Clinical Learning


Blog post by SimGHOSTS board member Kim Baily

Electronic med carts for sim practice can cost $20,000 plus so I made a much cheaper version using a scanner I got from Amazon, an old laptop and an old repurposed med cart.   Number the med drawers with letters or numbers rather than patient names.  Of course, the drawers won’t pop open but you can simulate a drawer with multiple dividers.   Bar codes can be downloaded for free or you can use the bar codes on Pocket Nurse Demodose or Wallcur practice meds.   I used excel to create an MAR and used excel “IF” statements to generate messages.  I also used another  barcode for the patient ID.   Here is an example of an IF statement using the F10 excel cell as the cell that will receive the scanned number.   The 112233 is the bar code for the sample med.

=IF(F10=0, " ", IF(F10=112233, "Correct Med", "Error Check Med"))  

The cell F10 is highlighted in yellow.  The user scans the drug or pt ID into the yellow cell F10, if the scanned number matches the drug ID, then the user gets a “correct med” message and if the user scans the wrong drug, an error message is received.

The scanned cells can be cleared at the end of the sim and then reused for the next group and if there is nothing in the yellow scan cell,  the adjacent cell will have no message.

(Members can download Kim's MAR Bar Code Scanner example here!)

I use drugs of different doses to make sure students pick up the right dose. I’m still working on how to simulate the situation where the student needs to give two pills. You could add time into another “IF” statement but that would be pretty complex and you would have to reset the time every time you ran a sim. Please see the SimGhosts website to access the entire MAR.

Tips for buying the scanner. Amazon sells scanners for as little as $20, I paid a little more in the hopes it might last a bit longer.

  1. I used a wired scanner because I thought the unwired would get lost.
  2. I bought a non-automatic scanner so the student has to press a button to scan. You might prefer an automatic but this means the scanner will continuously scan everything it comes across with a bar code.
  3. I bought a scanner that came with a stand which will be attached to the top of the med cart.