Image: Mission, Western and A-B Tech representatives learn how the lifelike mannequins work
Leaders of the three organizations that worked together to establish a medical simulation laboratory for the region had a chance to see how the lifelike mannequins work under the direction of Joe Huse (background at left), medical education specialist for Laerdal, manufacturer of the mannequins.  From left are Mary Piepenbring, director of the Health Care Division of The Duke Endowment; Chancellor John Bardo of Western Carolina University; Provost Kyle Carter of Western Carolina University; Joseph Damore, President and CEO of Mission Hospitals, and Ray Bailey, President of Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College. (Blake Madden Photo)

Nurses in Western North Carolina will learn lifesaving skills on medical mannequins that give them instant feedback and a risk-free way to practice, thanks to a new lab funded by The Duke Endowment. Its grant of nearly $400,000 was announced Sept. 26 during a celebration and demonstration at the new lab site by the three organizations that developed the program. They are Mission Hospitals, which served as lead entity, and two educational partners, Western Carolina University and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

The Western North Carolina Medical Simulation Lab will be housed in the Haynes Center on the Enka campus of A-B Tech, where Western's School of Nursing program is based. It is designed to help prepare Western North Carolina's nursing students and nurses already in practice to advance their skills in meeting the challenges of real-world medical situations. In addition, the laboratory's services will be available to other health education training programs in the region, such as the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), other community colleges, and first responders. The mannequins can also be transported throughout the region as needed for close-to-home training.

The virtual training laboratory will feature seven adult SimMan (or simulated man) state-of-the-art computerized mannequins and one infant SimBaby. The lifelike mannequins, which cost approximately $30,000 each, are controlled by instructors at nearby computers who can test students with a variety of patient care situations that mirror what professionals can expect in caring for real patients. Professors can make each computerized mannequin breathe, adjust its heart beat and blood pressure, change its respiration pattern, cause its tongue to swell, and make it talk – all with the punch of button on a keyboard.

Manufactured by Laerdal Medical Technology, the mannequins feature airway systems allowing highly realistic simulation of many difficult airway management and patient care situations, and electrocardiogram libraries of more than 2,500 cardiac rhythms for heart monitoring, defibrillation and external pacing. They also permit realistic practice of chest-tube insertion and have intravenous training arms for peripheral IV training.

The new lab, set to open in mid 2006, will be operated seven days a week and will be available for training by community college students, university nursing students at the undergraduate and graduate level, and nurses at hospitals and other health care institutions. During the lab's inaugural year, nursing faculty will be trained in the use of the equipment, including on-site training at Laerdal facilities in Texas for eight nursing educators. The lab will be in use by students by the second year of operation.

The Duke Endowment grant, made through its health care division, will fund the salary of a full-time laboratory coordinator for two years. Western and A-B Tech have pledged to each fund one-half the salary to continue the position at the end of the grant period.

The Duke Endowment is a private foundation established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke. The Endowment's mission is to serve the people of North Carolina and South Carolina by supporting selected programs of higher education, health care, children's welfare, and spiritual life.

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Comments from leaders of this initiative:

“As the entire nation faces a growing shortage of nurses and other health care professionals, Mission is proud to have partnered with the institutions of higher learning in western North Carolina to have established this innovative medical simulation laboratory. It will serve as a critical component of our regional effort to identify, train, and continually advance men and women to serve our region as health care professionals. The lab will provide them with the kind of hands-on, realistic training they need to prepare them for today's sophisticated health care delivery, and the means to continually advance their skills to keep up with new technological developments.

"Mission is proud to be part of this innovative partnership and grateful to The Duke Endowment for sharing our vision of a cooperative venture that will benefit our entire region."

--Joseph F. Damore, President  and CEO of Mission Hospitals

“A-B Tech is pleased to be a partner in this innovative simulation laboratory, which will help ensure the region's workforce of healthcare providers is well prepared with advanced clinical knowledge.”

 – K. Ray Bailey, President, Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College

 “At Western, we have been focusing much of our attention on engaging with our community by reaching out to provide education, research and services to meet the needs of the people of Western North Carolina and the state.  Development of this medical learning laboratory in conjunction with our regional partners is a perfect illustration of those notions of engagement and outreach. The training that this lab will provide not only to our students, but also to students from other regional institutions and to working health-care professionals, will result in improved health care for the people of the region.”

--John W. Bardo,  Chancellor, Western Carolina University

 “The nurses of the future and their patients will benefit tremendously from the simulation lab and the chance to learn on these incredibly sophisticated mannequins. “Mannequin training provides the hands-on experience clinicians need as they learn new skills and technologies. They can focus on learning without having to worry about whether their inexperience is harming a patient. It builds confidence and proficiency in health care providers.”

-- Lou Hammond, Vice President for Operations at Mission

“Many organizations are seeking funding for simulation labs. What makes this effort unique is the fact that so many leaders in the region worked together to develop the concept and to seek joint funding. We understand that one of the key reasons that our application was approved by Duke is that it demonstrated the willingness of Mission and our regional educational facilities to work together to enhance education for health care providers.  It will also be one of the very few such laboratories in the United States outside of a medical school setting which should help with recruiting nurses to our region.”

Bruce Thorsen, President of the Mission Healthcare Foundation
(through which the grant was obtained.)

 “This is an opportunity to provide health care students in our region with a unique experience, incorporating technology and virtual simulation in their education. It will enable us to enhance critical thinking skills and provide patient care experience that may not be available through clinical and classroom instruction.”

Ned Fowler, dean of Allied Health and Public Service Education,
Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College

“The development of a regional technology lab for simulation education will provide an opportunity for the undergraduate nursing students in Western North Carolina to develop skills in critical thinking so necessary in the read world of nursing. Practicing in a virtual learning environment affords the student the opportunity to practice decision-making in both simple and complex patient care situations much like an astronaut practices space maneuvers within the safety net of Earth.”

Brenda Causey, Chairperson, Nursing,
Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College

“These mannequins will be important high-tech learning tools for our students. They are as realistic as we can get without working on actual live human beings. That will be quite valuable as we train students for the situations they will face in the real world. The mannequins force students to be problem-solvers. They force students to think on their feet, to evaluate each situation and to adapt to the situation as it changes.”

-- Vincent Hall, head of Western Carolina University Department of Nursing
(an early proponent of the simulation lab)

            “The challenging real-world scenarios that will be provided by the laboratory can do nothing but enhance the skill level of our nursing graduates and all of the health-care practitioners who will be able to take advantage of the advanced training opportunities presented by this partnership effort.”

- Noelle Kehrberg, dean, Western Carolina University's College of Applied Sciences

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Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University