The patient on the bed was just a mannequin.
But for Matthew Gibson, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita who participated in a recent health care simulation exercise, the situation seemed real enough.
Students could feel the pulse and hear lung sounds.
Gibson’s patient even bled colored fluid.
“The most striking thing to me was the moment we stepped into the room as a group, and everyone is looking toward you as the future physician to see what to do,” Gibson said.
“You learn about responsibility. You know you’re the leader of the health care team. ... It was an amazing moment. This is what it’s going to be like: very real, very soon. I need to make decisions and be confident in what I am doing and confident in those around me and their skills.”
Simulations such as the one in which Gibson participated are a growing trend in health care education, and if a local group gets its wish, Wichita could be a regional hub for simulation.
In early 2013, the creation of the Mid-Continent Regional Center for Health Care Simulation in Wichita could come a step closer to realization with the proposed announcement of a board of directors and a location for the center, possibly downtown.
“What we’re trying to do creates something across the entire community built up from all these programs, schools and systems that often don’t always collaborate and are competitors,” said Paul Uhlig, interim executive director of the center, cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
“The vision that motivates me personally is that health care can become even better than it already is.”
Locating the center
Uhlig said the group hopes to announce the board of directors in January and finalize a location for the center sometime after that.
It was previously proposed that the center be located at the former Wichita Area Technical College off Highway K-96, but now, Uhlig said he and others favor a downtown location.
The estimated cost to create the center is $15 million, for both construction and equipment. And the annual operational costs are estimated at $2 million.
The group is working with GLMV Architecture for preliminary plans, but those likely will be adjusted once a location has been selected. It would likely include hospital-like rooms and conference space.
Allen, Gibbs & Houlik is creating a three-year financial projection and analysis for the center as well, Uhlig said.
Until the center is granted nonprofit status by the IRS, it will continue to have donations filtered through the Wichita Community Foundation.
Uhlig declined to discuss how much money has been raised for the center so far, and he said the timeline for completion of the center will depend on the pace of the funding campaign.
Currently, the group is operating in an office at 407 N. Waco. A donation by an anonymous donor enabled the center to hire two employees to coordinate simulation exercises and center development.
The Wichita health community has practiced simulation training for several years, but only in small pockets, Uhlig said.
The idea for a center came about in 2007 with a small group of medical professionals who wanted to assess the local health community’s use of simulation.
“It has tremendous potential to serve as an economic driver for this region in terms of creating a training center that will draw health care professionals from this region and from across the country,” said Jackie Vietti, president of Butler Community College, who is on the board of directors for the center.
Sedgwick County commissioner Tim Norton said he supports the project. Norton, a member of the center’s steering committee, said the innovative aspect of the center could help make Wichita a destination in health care education.
“If it rises to a level of high importance to the community, we’ll find a way to have the public sector involved,” Norton said.
But Uhlig says the goal is to build and equip the center without any debt and finance it through a mix of contributions.
“We’re not planning on tax funding, although it’s been spoken about by certain leaders of the community,” he said. “But we’re not planning for that or planning to request that.”
The center eventually could employ about 10 people, Uhlig said.
“Simulation technology as a whole is getting better and better. A lot of technology used in simulation in health care is a close cousin in technology to aviation,” said Uhlig, who suggested that simulation manufacturing could also be brought to Wichita because of the area’s expertise in aviation.
Although world-class simulation centers are located in places such as Stanford University, Harvard and the Mayo Clinic, Uhlig said Wichita could be unique in terms of creating a regional center through a community-wide collaborative effort.
“I think people nationally are watching what we’re doing,” Uhlig said.
“It’s expensive and resource intensive and requires a lot of energy and effort,” he said. “We hope that if we do it together, it will be truly at a world-class level, blazing new trails and setting new standards.”
Simulation training likely would include students and current medical professionals from different areas, such as nursing students, pharmacy students and physicians, Uhlig said.
“Students respond to challenges the patient is having, focusing on teaching teamwork and the communication process,” Uhlig said.
The simulations can be based on different health events, such as cardiac arrest or head injury.
Students also practice interacting with patients’ families.
“It’s not just about a building. It’s about improving health care for our community,” said Mary Koehn, associate dean of the College of Health Professions at Wichita State University and center steering committee member. “It’s about a need to shift the delivery of health care and learning to work together better across professions. We want better safety and health outcomes for our patients.”
Proponents say the center would allow for further collaboration between health care professionals and area schools.
Although schools in the area already have some form of health care simulation in their curriculum, plans through the center would help combine those efforts and allow interaction between students from different fields, instead of nursing students working with just nursing students, or medical students working with just medical students, Uhlig said.
Koehn is working with a group to develop faculty education on health care simulation.
“There’s a real need for faculty development,” Koehn said. “Our goal would be how do we collaborate together to teach students how to work in teams? How do you go about working interprofessionally to ultimately provide better education for our students and practitioners already out there?”
The group continues to gather information from area providers about what they’d like to see in the center.
“I’m passionate because I see the value it can add to all involved in health care and, one way or the other, either we are practitioners or recipients of practitioners’ care,” Vietti said. “There are benefits in every stakeholder group.”
“Some see this as a leap of faith, but it’s a leap I think we’re called on to take for the benefit of all involved.”