FAU’s Schmidt Medical College Launches Newly Enlarged Simulation Center

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer

Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine recently hosted an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official launch of its newly expanded, 15,000-square-foot, Clinical Skills Simulation Center in the Research Park at FAU in Boca Raton.

The enlarged facility opened its doors in the afternoon so visitors could observe student physicians and nurses working with specially designed mannequins that can simulate a multitude of medical conditions.

Officials from the medical college said the advanced technology used throughout the center improves trainees’ clinical skills, enhances critical thinking and enables them to become more self-assured in their skills while working under the supervision of trained instructors. The facility is used by medical students, medical residents, nurses, emergency medical technicians and other first responders.

Later that day, community leaders, donors and FAU officials gathered for a special unveiling and ribbon-cutting at the center.

“We are able to celebrate the launch of this new Clinical Skills Simulation Center because of the generous support we have received from the Quantum FoundationPalm Healthcare Foundation and our Florida legislature,” said Phillip Boiselle, M.D., dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

Jeff Atwater, FAU’s vice president for strategic initiatives and CFO, also participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

FAU’s first simulation center was launched in 2006 through a grant from the Quantum Foundation and support from the state legislature. Atwater was instrumental in the creation of the first center and attended the first ribbon-cutting ceremony while he was a state senator.

Mark Goldstein, developer of the simulation center, explained that the high-tech mannequins can simulate 140 different medical situations.  An instructor working from a console “can introduce medical errors” to test the students’ ability to handle crises. “In these cases, the students have only minutes or seconds to react.”

Goldstein said the mannequins have many human characteristics. “They have a heartbeat. Their eyes move, can dilate and can become yellowed with jaundice. They can suffer bronchial spasms and react to drugs,” among other medical conditions. They can even be injected with medications and respond.

He said another FAU medical school simulation center at St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach has a mannequin that can “give birth.”

“Since its inception,” Goldstein said, “FAU’s simulation center has trained more than 3,000 practicing nurses, hundreds of medical residents, hundreds of medical students and has addressed the training needs for adult living and skilled nursing facilities.”

FAU medical students also practice their clinical skills and hone their bedside manner while working with “standardized patients” — volunteers who pose as patients. Working with them enables students to self-reflect and improve their humanistic and empathetic approach to patients, said Goldstein.

One member of that volunteer corps is Elizabeth Eide, who was on duty the day of the open house. She was working with first-year medical student Jeremy Cohen, under the supervision of Allison Holley, M.D., a member of the faculty.

A retired school principal from Long Island, Elizabeth is beginning her sixth year as a “simulated patient” at the medical school.

She explained that she received a script telling her she was to act the part of an older woman, a widow, who was living alone, and whose family wanted her to be examined by a doctor to see if she was capable of caring for herself. Cohen asked a series of questions designed to create a medical profile as Elizabeth sat on the end of an examination table.  Dr. Holley watched closely.

“The Clinical Skills Simulation Center is the epitome of hands-on learning that our medical students as well as medical residents crave, and where they can apply real-world scenarios to what they are learning in school and out in the field,” said Sarah K. Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

“Standardized patients and these cutting-edge mannequins provide the ideal environment for them to learn the art of compassionate care and the critical skills required to react and respond to their patients’ needs.”

A $300,000 grant from the Quantum Foundation enabled the expansion of this newest center, as well as the dedication of the “Quantum Foundation Technical Training Room.”