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Students take on 'real life' cases in medical simulation program

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, at 7:08 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, at 7:07 a.m.

Medical simulation a hands-on experience

Nursing students from Wichita State University and National American University, respiratory therapy students from Newman University and medical students from KU School of Medicine-Wichita participate in an interprofessional simulation day facilitated by the Mid-Continent Center for Health Care Simulation. (Mike Hutmacher, The Wichita Eagle.)

Mid-Continent Center for Health Care Simulation Board of Directors

Jackie Vietti, chairwoman, president emeritus of Butler Community College

Gary Oborny, vice chairman, CEO of Occidental Management

Jon Rosell, treasurer, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County

Jill Docking, past chairwoman, Kansas Board of Regents

Jack Flesher, attorney at Bever Dye

Diana Lippoldt, director of critical care and trauma services at Wesley Medical Center

Mary Patterson, past president of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare and medical director of the Simulation Center for Safety and Reliability at Akron (Ohio) Children’s Hospital

Paul Uhlig, cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor at KU School of Medicine-Wichita

Information from the Mid-Continent Center for Health Care Simulation

One patient is an elderly man with chest pain.

Another is a toddler with a history of seizures.

The third is a pregnant woman with a fever and chills.

None of them is real, but the intensity displayed by nursing and medical students charged with caring for them might make you think otherwise.

The computerized dummies at National American University, 8428 W. 13th, are one part of a local simulation initiative to reduce risk to patients and make it easier for young medical professionals to learn the skills they need once they have RN, MD or another set of letters behind their names.

The Mid-Continent Center for Health Care Simulation is trying to increase the area of simulation training in Wichita and has been expanding its programming over the past year with the hopes of eventually having a building of its own.

“It’s really coming alive in terms of program and operations right now,” said Paul Uhlig, interim executive director of the center, cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.

“We’re trying to building something for the long term.”

Interprofessional development

One key area for simulation is called interprofessional development, in which medical students, nursing students, respiratory therapists and others come together in simulation training.

Usually, students do not train with others outside their profession, but the idea is to make it more like real life – where they work as a medical team to provide care.

On Thursday, a group of students met at National American University’s simulation lab. When the “elderly man” flat-lined, the students tried to save him. It was the first time that many had participated in a simulation, and most had no clinical experience.

In the simulation, the dummy’s vitals are controlled by a person at a computer who can respond to how the students react.

The students managed to save him, but Kyle Miller, a fourth-year medical student at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, was shaking his head in disappointment.

“I feel like they just pressed the button to start over,” Miller said afterward, disappointed in his performance.

“I’ve never done a simulation before. I’ve only seen one code ever, and all I did was chest compressions, I wasn’t running anything. ... I think this will be useful, especially at the beginning of a residency.”

Jaime Poore, a nursing student at National American University who was in the same group, agreed.

“We all hold ourselves to super-high standards, and that was not the best performance out there, but we did well with what we had,” she said.

Overall, the students said the experience would help them better prepare for the day when the man on the bed is a real patient.

“It’s refreshing,” said Barbara Uhlrich, senior at Wichita State’s school of nursing who took part in the simulation. “We did simulation within our class, and this has been a lot more useful (to be with other medical professionals). No one really feels like they’re on solid footing, and it’s nice to see the physicians not being on really strong footing, too. When you’re at the hospital, it’s a totally different climate, and this is a safe place to learn, and clinicals don’t always feel that way.”

She said the idea of training as a health care team is relatively new.

“We’re all changing the culture as we go into the field,” she said. “This whole team scenario is going to change everything in health care.”

The programs have also recently added actors to portray family members. How to communicate with a patient’s family members in a stressful situation is an area in which training often lags, Uhlig said.

“In the past, that’s always been an afterthought to just learning to put in a breathing tube or shock a patient into a normal heart rhythm,” Uhlig said. “But (dealing with the family) is hugely important and transforms our understanding on how best to give care, and it makes us much better.”

Faculty development

One way to build momentum for the simulation initiative is getting faculty from area medical programs involved.

“If the faculty are excited about it, they will increasingly want to have those resources available as methods for teaching in their schools,” Uhlig said.

Over the past year, Mary Koehn, associate professor of nursing at Wichita State, has led the faculty development portion of the simulation initiative, working to train faculty at area schools in the technology and how to use it as a teaching tool.

One way they do that is by having faculty meet and design simulations for each other to test. After the simulation, the group will discuss what was handled well and what could be handled better.

“You have to determine ‘What is it you’re trying to accomplish? Are you trying to learn skills or trying to learn teamwork?’ That helps focus on what it is we design in terms of the scenario, whether you make it more technical or less,” Koehn said.

Erin Doyle, Wichita Area Technical College simulation lab coordinator and operations council member for the simulation center, said it’s important for faculty to discuss the kinds of scenarios they want students to experience through simulation.

“We need to determine what things our students need to know that might not be seen in clinicals because, even with the best-planned clinicals, you may not have anybody who has a baby that day or codes that day,” Doyle said.

“It’s very important to try to remember what it’s like to be a student, and even though we’ve done it so many times, for that student it’s fresh and new and nervous. But in the simulation, it’s a safe place where you can go and there isn’t going to be any patient risk.”

Future building

For simulation training, students currently travel to different schools, but officials hope to someday have a permanent facility for the simulation center.

But that will depend on funding. A building is likely to cost $15 million, plus there would be about $2 million annually in operational costs.

The newly appointed board of directors has yet to make a final decision on where to locate the building and will also have to launch a capital campaign.

“A few years down the road, we will have a more tangible form,” Uhlig said.

Until then, the center will set up operations in smaller labs across the city. The board is also looking to lease or purchase a 4,000-square-foot space that can be configured differently to fit various simulation activities, like a black box theater, Uhlig said.

“As we do different activities, we’re learning so much and we want to run through a few different scenarios. ... We’d like to prototype out what the various labs and spaces should be like for when we build the final thing,” Uhlig said.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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