Simulation Lab Expands to Create More Real-life Training Opportunities for Clinical Experts

“Sepsis escape room” participants include medical residents and nurses together.

Medical experts are tasked with continuously expanding their knowledge and skills. One way that Mercy Health Saint Mary’s helps clinicians obtain expertise is through a process called simulations, where participants enact a medical event not with actual patients, but rather with the use of actors or tools called manikins. Simulations are used to prevent patient injury and to ensure the safest level of care.

Many simulations are designed to assess a clinician’s ability with an everyday core competency, such as an IV insertion. Simulations can also be used to train for highly stressful situations, such as an emergent C-section or a cardiopulmonary arrest.

“Simulations are necessary for the high-risk, low-frequency procedures, or simply to train clinical experts on the hands-on portion of medical care,” said Vicki Swendroski, MHPE, BSN, RN, CPAN, CHSE, Professional Development Specialist, Sepsis and Simulation, who helps oversee the simulation processes at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

First introduced at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s several years ago, simulation with the use of manikins was primarily used to educate nursing staff on codes, or when patients’ hearts begin to fail. Thanks to various grants from Trinity Health, such as I-Peace, and the Saint Mary’s Foundation — and thanks to a dedicated professional education staff — Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has expanded its simulation practice to become interprofessional. Medical residents, including those from Mercy Health Muskegon, nuclear medicine technologists and respiratory therapists are also included in the competency training that a manikin in a simulated disease state provides.

The simulations performed at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s include the operating room.

In the past year, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has increased the number of its manikins from 25 to 65. The simulation lab currently employs full-time Simulation Specialist, Jeff Trosper, who keeps the equipment labeled, organized and prepared for the next simulation.  A manikin can be as small as a hand or an arm, or the size of an actual person. Manikins’ “ages” range from babies to senior adults.

A manikin is “assigned” with a specific disease state, such as sepsis, or to simulate a specific process, such as an IV or a Foley catheter insertion. For example, an “arm” will be used for clinicians to practice a central line insertion, and it feels like real skin for a realistic experience for the clinician who is being trained.

Another example of simulating a real event is the “sepsis escape room.” Clinicians are given a flow chart and must discover how to “escape” by correctly diagnosing the patient within the given 30 minutes. Just as on an inpatient unit, nurses and residents work collaboratively in the escape room, each fulfilling their clinical roles to correctly diagnose the patients and administer the correct treatment.

“Training nurses and medical residents together provides a better sense for what the other members of the clinical team are responsible for, and how long sometimes these processes can take,” explained Swendroski. “This cross-collaborative educational experience enhances patient care by improving the team-based approach.”

The simulation team also performs “pop-up mock codes,” which happen randomly on units without advance warning, provide entire teams with opportunities to simulate mock codes, or heart failure. This process has helped newer nurses as well as established clinical members learn how to use new equipment or processes, and be more aware of certain diseases and diagnoses.

Nurses perform in the sepsis escape room.

Zero harm is the goal of every health care professional. Simulations are one of many ways that Mercy Health reaches toward that goal.



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