Mannequins, actors and fake blood Simulation is for real in GR


    Simulation is really happening in Grand Rapids.

    “It’s growing at Grand Valley. It’s growing at GRMERC. It’s growing across the nation,” said Grand Valley State University’s Vice Provost for Health Jean Nagelkerk.

    “It’s a good educational experience, where you can standardize the encounter … and the students get immediate feedback. It’s in a safe environment.”

    At GVSU’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in downtown Grand Rapids, students get a chance to practice in settings that look like what they’ll encounter in the real world. Tucked onto the center’s top floors are nine examination rooms, a critical care room, three learning labs with 21 bays, rooms for conferences and classes, and Evideon recording equipment. It uses computerized mannequins that blink, speak, breathe and have heartbeats, as well as hired “standard patients” — actors who have been trained to play patients. The Simulation Center opened with the building in 2003.

    “To me, it’s state-of-the art. It’s very good,” Nagelkerk said.

    “We have all sorts of interprofessional simulation experiences now within Grand Valley. So we may have physical therapy and the nurse practitioners together, the (physician assistants) and the nurse practitioners. We actually even have Ferris State come in with their pharmacy students, and we have some of our nurses with them, and then we have medical students or residents who actually do a code together.”

    Nagelkerk chairs the local Interprofessional Education Steering Committee, which has a subcommittee that focuses on simulation.

    “We are actually looking at different experiences and enhancing and broadening those experiences,” she said. “We are trying to expand the types of experiences that we do so that students work together from the different disciplines, because that builds teams. It builds an understanding of each other’s disciplines and roles. And it enhances safety and quality of care.”  

    Other participants include the Grand Rapids Medical Education and Research Center, Spectrum Health and Saint Mary’s Health Care.

    Dr. William R. Hamman, who is researching teamwork in health care through the use of simulation techniques he learned as a United Airlines pilot, said interdisciplinary simulation is important to improving team skills and patient safety. He said simulation exercises must move beyond technical skills to cover team attributes such as leadership and communication.

    “The next step is to take what we’ve learned now and move it further and further back in health care education,” Hamman said. “If we can move that further back in health care education — at the nursing schools, the medical school level — to me, that would be fantastic, so they can start working on these skills early on.”

    It can be difficult, however, to break down the walls that have traditionally separated the education of various health care professionals, he said.

    Dr. Dianne Wagner, associate dean for college-wide assessment for Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, said simulation is being built in at the Secchia Center under construction just down the street from the Cook-DeVos center. Some 15,000 square feet will be devoted to simulation, she said. Simulation space also is available on the East Lansing campus.

    “We have simulation experiences from our first year of medical school on through residency training, so we already use standardized patients and task trainers and mannequins in educational and evaluation experiences across our educational enterprise,” Wagner said.

    Wagner said Hamman’s work in health care team evaluation and training “is imperative. … Simulation is ideal for that. You can have them practice together in ways that simply hasn’t been easy to do in the past.” HQ

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