Virtual-reality simulation training produces highly effective medical practitioners & improves patient care

Each year, the hyper-realistic Fairbanks Interdisciplinary Simulations Center allows thousands of Indiana students to hone their clinical skills in a risk-free, interdisciplinary environment. The 30,000 square-foot high fidelity center replicates the patient care environment and uses a wide range of scenarios to train Indiana’s future doctors, nurses and medical technicians to apply cognitive, psychomotor and affective skills. It consists of a twelve-seat computer lab, small classrooms, debriefing rooms and four main areas:

  • Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) Center – versatile 10-bed exam room area
  • Virtual Hospital – a six-bed hospital unit (including OB room with newborn area). Students care for simulated patients with assigned critical times to encourage problem-solving, assessment, intervention and debriefing. Clinical time includes selected skill sets, virtual DVD programs, and other technologies
  • Skill Set Area – 1,000 square-foot instruction area for learning and practicing suturing, airway management, IV pump training and other advanced skills
  • Acute Care Area – an ER, simulated surgical suite, Vascular Flex area, ICU suite, and transport room with ambulance. Patient simulators represent critically ill patients with selected disruptions. The area can also replicate recovery room, pre-op, triage or burn unit scenarios

Several state-of-the-art Laerdal manikins (3G, SimMan, SimBaby, SimNewB) are utilized throughout Fairbanks. All nurse practitioners (from pediatric to acute) and internal medicine physicians now receive six hours of instruction and testing on Harvey®, The Cardiopulmonary Patient Simulator. Student blog posts ‘to’ Harvey attest to its effective realism: “Thanks, Harvey! Caught a murmur today.”

Recent advances in simulation technology are especially prevalent in the fully outfitted surgical suite. There, specialists and nursing students in training perform full procedures on simulated patients – using real instruments and the newest equipment – and experience what it’s like to work on a recently opened body cavity.

“This is a wonderful, collaborative enterprise that will provide a wealth of experience for students with direct benefit to patients,” says Marion Broome, PhD, RN Distinguished Professor and university dean of the School of Nursing. “Working together to solve patient problems will influence the attitudes and behavior of nurses and physicians for years to come. With this new approach to simulated education practices, all health care providers will be best prepared to meet the complex challenges in today’s health care system.”

Fairbanks takes virtual-reality learning to an unprecedented level and each year thousands of students benefit from its real-life training programs. As members of an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals, students gain experience and learn to deal with team dynamics, emerging technology and sudden crises before they are thrust into clinicals, residencies and the workplace.

Collaboration results in operational efficiency and ongoing development of medical training programs

The integrated facility has benefited each of the three partners financially and in their overall strategic planning. Eleven onsite personnel have been hired to complement Fairbanks’ interdisciplinary goals and objectives. A simulation academy has been established to further develop curriculum and research opportunities.

“This collaborative model has truly worked on our campus and has drawn all healthcare providers into a common purpose of improved patient safety for the State of Indiana,” said Scott Engum, MD, Fairbanks Director.

About Clarian Health

Clarian Health, comprised of more than 20 Indiana hospitals and medical centers, is named among the “Best Hospitals in America” by U.S. News & World Report. When teams at two Clarian facilities, the Indiana University Schools of Medicine and Nursing, determined patients would be better served by implementing the very latest in simulation-based teaching and practices, an interdisciplinary governance and operational committee was created to oversee planning and construction of a new simulation center.

The Fairbanks Interdisciplinary Simulations Center opened in 2005 and is jointly operated by the Indiana University Schools of Medicine and Nursing and Clarian Health.