The Albany Stratton VA Medical Center has opened a new Simulation and Learning Center.
The lab at Building 67 is the product of seven months of work. With several task trainers and five mannequins of ranging fidelity, Medical Center Director Darlene DeLancey says the lab helps the VA achieve its objectives as a High Reliability Organization.
“When I look at this, it is really helping our efforts and to lead our efforts in providing the appropriate healthcare needed," says DeLancey. "And what it does? It maximizes our safety, it minimizes our harm, and [delivers] exceptional care, and it helps us to become a learning organization.”
The star of the show is Sim-Man 3G, a programmable, high-fidelity mannequin with realistic heart, lung, and bowel sounds as well as a traceable pulse. As Clinical Educator Carol Noriega demonstrates, Sim-Man can walk students through scenarios from blood pressure and IV training to CPR and injections.
“Uh oh…what’s happening? My oxygen saturation level is dropping! You see the value changing on the patient monitor?" notes Sim-Man. "Look at my mouth, I’m becoming cyanotic! I’m also breathing faster. When this happens, I hope you’ll take quick action to save me.”
When Sim-Man says he’s cyanotic, he’s not kidding – he really does turn blue, to simulate a lack of oxygen in the body. Noriega says Sim-Man has a wide range of physiological and neurological responses to the care he receives. She says Sim-Man can “sweat,” gasp for air, cough, and respond to more than 145 drugs. And while Noriega admits these reactions can catch students off guard, they ultimately give students a realistic experience in a safe space. With a two-way mirror in the lab, Noriega can observe students from another room, and communicate via Sim-Man’s speaker system.
“And what’s unique about that is that as the learner is experiencing the scenario, I’m able to make changes back here without them seeing that I make a change, so they can’t anticipate seeing something happen," she explains.
Noriega says the entire Simulation and Learning Center, Sim-Man and all, came together with a $5,000 budget. Considering some hospital beds alone cost that much, Designated Learning Officer Patricia Muster says the team had to be creative.
“And so what we did was we looked around the hospital to see what kind of extra equipment was available," Muster explains. "And there’s also something called an Extra Equipment List – so, for example, the beds that we got, they were available somewhere within the VA system, so all we had to pay was for the freight, to ship them here.”
Noriega says she plans to research grants to develop the lab even further. Of course, the center will largely be used by VA staff, but Muster says she’d like to get the larger community involved too. Noriega says the lab is designed to train anyone caring for veterans.
“Anywhere from housekeeping, they can come in here and learn how to clean a bed with the patient in it. Even learn how to clean a room, a terminal clean, because it’s different than just standard housekeeping," notes Noriega. "We could have dietary come in, we can have police come in and talk about a disruptive patient. Nursing assistants who have never given a bath before, we can actually practice on that – and we can go all the way up to the physician level. So it’s everybody.”