Monday, February 13, 2012 - Simulation Lab boosts hospital training capabilities

By Christine McKelvie

Seizures rack the body of a five-year-old boy in the Emergency Department of Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs. Nurses quickly hook up a monitor that shows the boy’s blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation.

The numbers are not reassuring.

His distraught mother hovers by his side, answering the nurse’s questions. Yes, he has a history of seizures. Yes, he is on medication. No, she has not been giving him the full dosage because she can’t afford it.

The patient, still seizing, begins to vomit. Another nurse turns him on his side to protect his airway. Applying critical thinking skills and the vital information from the mother, the nurse notifies the emergency physician, who orders an immediate intravenous injection.

The medication works rapidly, and the monitor shows the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate stabilizing. The little boy’s seizures are over for now.

This scenario is realistic, the nurses are real people, but the “patient” is actually a computerized mannequin in Yampa Valley Medical Center’s new Simulator Lab. This high-tech addition is designed to provide hands-on training for clinical staff.

“When the Sim Lab officially opens on April 3, YVMC will be one of the few hospitals outside the Denver area to offer such training,” hospital Staff Development Coordinator Debby Harris said.

A team led by YVMC Chief Medical Officer and emergency physician Dr. Larry Bookman, Emergency Department Director Paula Golden and Harris developed the Sim Lab proposal.   

The Sim Lab is a special room near the Emergency Department. The room can be configured to mimic an emergency department, a patient room or an intensive care room.

Equipment consists of two mannequins that act, talk and respond as patients. Each mannequin is controlled by a computer and has a patient monitor attached to it. The simulation scenarios involve numerous radio-frequency tags that the mannequins read and respond to.

“The mannequins are extremely versatile – they can have a heart attack, a seizure or respiratory arrest.” Harris said. “They drool, sweat and cry out in pain. The pupils of their eyes react to light when they are being checked for head injury or narcotics use.”

Six YVMC nurses have been hired as facilitators, in addition to Harris. They will lead training sessions for nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, diagnostic imaging technologists, medical technologists, lab support technicians and case managers.

“By creating trauma and other emergency situations, the Sim Lab will prepare providers at YVMC to respond to a wide range of injuries, illnesses and conditions,” Harris said.

The YVMC Sim Lab is funded by a generous grant from the H.B.B. Foundation, of Chicago, Illinois. The grant was written by the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley and resulted in the $500,000 gift, the largest grant received by the Healthcare Foundation to date. The grant is for the YVMC Emergency Department and nursing education.

The mission of the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley is to support the healthcare services of Yampa Valley Medical Center for the communities it serves.

For more information about the Sim Lab, contact Harris at 970-870-1114.