The future of medical training may not be textbooks and lectures, but interactive simulation of real-life medical scenarios with computerized mannequins that bleed, cry, stop breathing, require difficult intubations and more.
The Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center in Arizona opened last year at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in northeast Phoenix. This state-of-the-art 3,000-square-foot facility simulates real-life patient care situations, allowing health care professions to practice on mannequins in a no-risk environment.
"No other curriculum can replicate the heart palpitations and sweat that is typical in critical care," says Paul Andrews, M.D., medical director of the Simulation Center. "Patients may never set foot in this facility, but they stand to benefit greatly from the real-world education that simulation learning provides."
At the center, current and future health care professionals prepare for the realities of medical practice. The lifelike setting replicates Mayo's emergency department, intensive care unit, hospital rooms and exam rooms and uses stunningly realistic, computerized mannequins that exhibit human emotions and physical responses. Students use virtual reality task trainers that work a lot like video games, and practice patient encounters with actors.
"Our Simulation Center crosses several disciplines related to improving patient care and safety," says Dr. Andrews. Students practice nursing skills, emergency care, minimally invasive procedures and other advanced surgical techniques.
"Most of the learning we do is in a vacuum. We sit back, we read and we study," says Dr. Andrews. "Now we have a tool that brings groups together to take care of complex issues and allow them to practice before they ever touch a patient."
Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minn., recently purchased SimNewB, a 7-pound, 21-inch neonatal training mannequin that looks and acts like a newborn baby girl.
An instructor uses a computer to direct SimNewB to perform one of 12 scenarios, which include mimicking signs of seizure, heart murmur, lung congestion or oxygen deprivation. The mannequin's airway enables staff to practice airway management techniques, and its navel has a lifelike pulse and can be prepared for IV access. In addition, the instructor can tweak the baby's responses to treatment to tailor the experience to the learners' skill levels.
"This extraordinary training tool can help improve clinical skills and team dynamics in a risk-free environment," says Natalie Smith, director, Obstetrics, Women's and Pediatrics at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
Minnesota's Multidisciplinary Simulation Center opened in 2005, and it already has contributed to patient safety as well as research into improving and expanding simulation-based education. Facilities like the ones in Minnesota, Arizona and another planned for Florida, rely greatly on the support of Mayo Clinic benefactors.
The late Juanita Kious Waugh of Brookstone, Ind., longtime Mayo patient, understood the importance of quality medical education. In 2010, she bequeathed to Mayo Clinic $43 million — the third-largest estate gift in Mayo Clinic's history. Her gift names and endows the Executive Dean of Education and provides operating and endowment funds for educational programs and Mayo Graduate School scholarships.
"Ms. Waugh's legacy will live on through her generosity to Mayo Clinic. Students, educators, clinicians and the public will benefit from this extraordinary gift," says John Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo Clinic. "The impact of medical education has a profound effect worldwide. Mayo Clinic teaches the doctors of tomorrow, and we keep today's medical professionals at the cusp of new knowledge for the benefit of patients."