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Making the Medical Simulation Experience Even Better

It’s just another typical Tuesday at CAPS. Students are engaged in all manner of interesting real world problem solving and brainstorming. Take a walk with me to Room 240B and you’ll see that same level of engagement at CAPS Medical Center. You’ll see kids. In scrubs. Auscultating heart sounds. Picking up the phone to order a CT scan. Charting using Cerner’s EHR. Drawing blood from a patient’s arm. Removing medication from the MedDispense system…and administering it intravenously.  You know, normal teenager stuff. It is quite remarkable to watch these students, really. Taking care of a patient. Safely. Effectively. Professionally. I see it every week and I am still in awe of how capable our students are when we provide the right learning environment.

CAPS Medical Simulation Lab houses our high fidelity human patient simulator, Stan D. Ardman (StanDArdman- Standard man); affectionately known to CAPS Medical Center personnel as, Stan Manikin. Research has well established the benefits of simulation for over a decade now. It is the standard in health care education. It is even replacing some clinical hours, as student placements get more and more challenging. CAPS Medicine & Healthcare students are fortunate to have access to this innovative technology.

The CAPS Sim Lab has been rolling since January 2013. Steadily, we have developed a solid curriculum intended to expose students to real world scenarios, especially students enrolled in the Foundations of Medicine class. However, incorporating Sports Medicine students consistently posed a challenge. We wanted Sports Med students to have more opportunities to interact with Stan Manikin, and to see the progression of certain conditions and how treatment varies accordingly. We have come up with several scenarios in which the Sports Med students work with the same patient, but in a variety of settings, over the course of several weeks. For example, our patient Keil Ohver, experiences the spectrum of heat illness in progressing degrees over a three-week period. Each week he is in a different setting. Week one, students attend to a sideline Keil, experiencing heat cramps. Week two, transitions to the training room where Keil is suffering from heat exhaustion. We use live patient “actors” for these two scenarios. But in week three, students are in an inpatient hospital setting caring for Keil (now Stan), with exertional heat stroke. The same sequence was applied to our patient, Brian Tromma, who experiences concussion symptoms from mild the first week, to severe second impact syndrome by week three. Students are able to see what happens when an athlete is transferred for continued urgent care. It gives them a bigger picture. Simulation activities and scenarios always end with a time of debriefing and wrap up discussion; and with this new model flow more easily from week to week.

Another area we wanted to give students opportunities to safely navigate was the whole communication piece of patient care. We want our students to learn therapeutic communication techniques, sure. But why stop there? How do medical professionals break bad news to patients? It’s a delicate and advanced skill that students usually don’t even breech until their senior year of nursing or med school.  The spectrum of “bad news” runs the gamut from a sports career ending injury, to “sorry you are contagious for 24 hours, and no, you can’t attend the dance”, to sharing sad and scary diagnoses such as cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease. Within the walls of our Sim Lab, our students are given opportunities to develop soft skills such as: professionalism, respect, empathy, eye contact, non-judgmental attitudes, active listening behaviors, etc. as they speak with real patient actors. These sessions are videotaped. The post activity debriefing is transformative for students after they have had an opportunity to view their videos.

In summary, we are proud of the wide range of excellent opportunities we can offer CAPS Medicine and Healthcare students. The Medical Simulation Lab is just one of the many wonderful and unique strategies utilized to provide a variety of enhanced, real world, hands on learning for our students. Over the five years of Stan Manikin’s life at CAPS, his reach has grown and his impact increased with every semester!