Two years ago, Joseph McCormick, M.D., vice president for South Texas Programs, began designing a state-of-the-art hospital that would essentially share technology across the region to a wide range of schools. That technology is medical simulation. In simpler terms, this type of technology can mean anything from simulated manikins to emergency response situations. Today, this high-tech approach to medical training is being implemented at the UT Rio Grande Valley Smart Hospital – a $10 million-dollar simulation hospital with an operating room, a delivery room, and the most advanced computerized manikins in the world. These simulation manikins allow medical all health professional students including medical and nursing students to practice a wide-range of procedures, from basic IV training to delivering a baby.
The brand new, 15,000-square-foot facility is located in Harlingen at the Regional Academic Health Center, a regional campus of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
The UTRGV SMART Hospital trains medical professionals from the moment an emergency occurs, to the time they reach the hospital room – literally from start to finish. The invitation to simulation training is far and wide, as healthcare providers, first-responders, and high school students at area health-focused schools are part of a network invited to learn a variety of disciplines. They will have access to clinical simulations at the hospital. Off-campus, mobile units will be available to take simulation training to other hospitals in the area. Training will also be available through video conferencing.
“As we started to develop this project, we realized that this could also create a pipeline for students,” said McCormick. “It gives them a different perspective. For middle and high school students they can see what a range of opportunities health professions provide. For Health professional students it demonstrates what clinical situations are really like. They can do that without the fear of harming someone. This program will foster better education and continuing education – creating the opportunity for teamwork.”
Aside from allowing students to reach a more comfortable level while training on simulation manikins, it also reduces the risk of harm or injury that could otherwise inadvertently occur when learning on a real patient.
“Simulation provides a place for nurses to practice. It allows them to practice their mistakes. If they do make mistakes, then they can practice it again and again until they’ve mastered it,” said Kristina Stillsmoking, Ph.D., director of the UTRGV SMART Hospital. “We did some simple research. We found that students felt this type of training increased their confidence and competence and engaged them in learning.”