Cutting edge-ucation: Clinical simulations mimic real-life situations
For doctors, nurses and other clinicians, preparation is paramount.
“Simulation-based learning is the best way to ensure that caregivers are well-versed and comfortable carrying out their work,” said Jim Cooke, M.D., executive director of the Clinical Simulation Center (CSC) at Michigan Medicine. “Such training leads to improved health outcomes and safety for our patients and colleagues.”
That mantra is the foundation for the brand-new Clinical Simulation Center, a 7,500-square-foot facility that opened earlier this year in Med Sci Building II. The space is filled with state-of-the-art technology designed to give physicians, learners, nurses and clinicians a place to practice and perfect their craft.
More capacity to improve skills
For more than a decade, clinical simulation has been a major component of the curriculum for students at Michigan Medicine.
A 1,500-square-foot facility opened near the Towsley Triangle in 2004, giving U-M one of the first medical simulation centers in the country. That space included a mock patient room, manikins and virtual reality surgical simulators on which to practice procedures.
But the school rapidly outgrew the space, paving the way for an expansion to 6,000 square feet in Towsley in 2008 followed by the new, additional Med Sci 2 facility, which was constructed between April 2017 and January 2018 (the old space is still active, as well).
“We’ve been searching for ways to give more members of our community a chance to get comfortable in the clinical environment before ever coming face-to-face with a patient,” Cooke said. “The new space more than doubles our overall capacity and is open to med students, residents, fellows and nurses — along with researchers, faculty and staff — so they can improve their skills and enhance the level of services provided across the organization.”
The new simulation center is at the cutting edge of technology and architecture. It includes five inpatient rooms, three debriefing rooms, two large classrooms, a team room, and an independent simulation suite where procedures such as laparoscopic surgical skills, suturing, eye exams and airway management techniques can be practiced 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
The inpatient rooms are designed to look exactly like their real-life counterparts across the academic medical center.
“We have a pediatric ICU room that looks exactly like those in Mott and two patient rooms that are identical to those in University Hospital, down to the dimensions and the view out the windows,” Cooke said. “The entire center is designed to get students, faculty and staff comfortable in a setting where they will need to perform high-pressure work later in their career.”
Within each room are manikins that are fully interactive — they can cry, talk, blink and even give birth — and are operated by instructors standing behind a one-way mirror.
“To be able to practice things such as intubations on manikins is essential to helping us gain confidence,” said Balaji Pandian, an M4 med student who has used the clinical simulation centers at Michigan Medicine. “We earn valuable experience, learn new techniques and get muscle memory down so that these procedures become second nature to us by the time we meet patients.”
Every procedure is videotaped and teams of students and faculty then break down the video and make improvements.
“If we need to repeat steps, we can repeat steps,” Pandian said. “It’s incredibly productive for all of us to learn skills in a safe, controlled environment like this.”
‘An ever-evolving space’
Clinicians aren’t the only ones who benefit from the new simulation center. Researchers can test the viability of hypotheses or techniques — and even introduce new equipment to the clinical environment.
“What better place to test equipment than in a mock clinical setting?” Cooke asked. “We want everyone here to realize that the clinical simulation center is versatile — it’s not just an educational facility, it’s a technology space and a research lab.”
And as technology improves, so too will the CSC.
“This is an ever-evolving space that will keep Michigan Medicine at the forefront of health care education and training,” Cooke said. “It will be a valuable part of the community for years — and hopefully decades — to come.”