ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic's Multidisciplinary Simulation Center is now one of 11 advanced, comprehensive simulation centers in the United States to be accredited by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Accreditation by the ACS positions Mayo to offer and advance medical education that will improve patient safety by increasing health care team members' abilities to keep pace with rapidly changing technologies.
Mayo's 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art simulation center opened in fall 2005 as a premier teaching center for Mayo's health care professionals. The distinction of accreditation allows the Mayo facility to offer continuing education to visiting physicians, surgeons, emergency room workers and other health care professionals.
Benchmark of Excellence
In its first 12 months of operation, the center hosted 4,053 learners within classes each typically a half-day long. "This high level of programming and usage at startup is unprecedented in any simulation center to my knowledge," says Mayo Simulation Center's medical director, William Dunn, M.D., who also is president-elect of the international Society for Simulation in Healthcare (www.ssih.org). "We are deeply honored by the ACS recognition. It tells us we have achieved a benchmark of excellence."
David Farley, M.D., surgeon and vice chair for education in Mayo Clinic's Department of Surgery in Rochester, says, "Health care needs simulation centers of excellence such as ours to support educational vision. We are preparing teams to care for patients not only now -- but in the future as well."
Transforming Medical Education
A comprehensive simulation center is among the newest 21st century tools of medical education. It offers health care teams -- physicians, surgeons, nurses, respiratory therapists, emergency room personnel and medical students -- powerful learning opportunities to build team competency in high-stress situations that are at once realistic, yet free of risk to patients. Participants learn through computer simulations, robotic mannequins programmed to respond as patients might, and human actors cast as patients. Just as aviation pilots master complexity through cockpit simulators, health care professionals across disciplines improve performance and reduce errors through simulation training at Mayo Clinic.
The challenge now facing medical educators is: How can health care professionals master complex new bodies of knowledge, technologies and procedures while also taking care of patients"
Dr. Farley says the answer is through the deep and enduring learning that comes from practicing difficult techniques in a safe, supportive simulation environment. "Which physician would you want working on you or your loved one -- the one who got the test question right on an exam" Or the one who worked with a team, the equipment and patient model in a realistic simulated setting and had his or her performance reviewed, and then got a chance to do it again""
Inside Mayo's Simulation Center
The term "simulation center" can mean many things. Some medical centers call the closet where a mannequin is kept for demonstrating cardiopulmonary resuscitation the simulation center. Not so at Mayo Clinic. Its Multidisciplinary Simulation Center is a newly built complex. Four of its larger rooms can be configured and equipped to be exact replicas of Mayo Clinic surgical suites, emergency rooms, intensive care rooms, or the cardiac catheterization laboratory. Like independent stages in a theater, these rooms have multipurpose functionality. Additional smaller rooms can be configured as inpatient hospital rooms, an outpatient clinic, and other areas.
Control booths, observation rooms, and high-tech cameras attached to every room allow medical educators to teach new techniques and simulate medical emergencies requiring hands-on, real-time problem solving. Physician instructors watch scenes unfold from behind the control booth glass. The simulated situation is often filmed and then reviewed and critiqued by the entire health care team and instructors. Participants can repeat the situation and practice proper responses.
The Future of Simulation Center Medicine
To assure the highest quality of health care professionals in practice, Drs. Dunn and Farley agree that future medical licensing training programs and board-level specialist credentialing processes should involve outstanding performance on select simulation-based exams. Currently, the United States' medical licensing exam process uses simulation-based exams only minimally.
"We need to demand uniform excellence in training and assessment of health care professionals, in fair, standardized, respectful manners -- raising the bar and modeling for others. And comprehensive, accredited advanced simulations centers such as ours will play a pivotal role in achieving this," says Dr. Farley.
Dr. Dunn adds, "The rationale for simulation-center-based medical education is persuasive. Administering medical care is a high-risk proposition, and the more experience, exposure and practice team members receive, the likelier we are to improve the care we give to real patients, at minimized risk. This is helping to shape the future of medical education."