Simulation center gives health sciences students near-real-world experience

Students learn during a labor and delivery simulationView print quality image
IU School of Nursing students complete a labor and delivery simulation in the IU Interprofessional Simulation Center. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Having the ability to practice one's craft or skill in order to become proficient is a no-brainer. But when your skill is caring for sick or injured people, the ability to practice becomes a bit tricky.

Enter the IU Interprofessional Simulation Center, a collaboration among the IU School of Nursing, the IU School of Medicine and IU Health. This 12,000-square-foot center at the IU Regional Academic Health Center provides the opportunity for IU health sciences students and IU Health employees to learn and practice in a near-real-world setting.

"It's been well-established in research that simulation-based education prepares all health sciences disciplines for the real-world environment very well," said David Rodgers, director of the simulation center. "Simulations allow students to manage challenging situations and practice critical thinking, and they help set students up for success in their clinical rotations."

The center, which is in the IU Bloomington Health Sciences Building, has spaces for inpatient simulations, including labor and delivery, home health care, and clinical exams. Simulations include full-body simulations with specialized mannequins as well as simulations with actors who present with various symptoms or conditions so students can create a plan of care for the "patient."

Students learn and practice on state-of-the-art simulators, including "Harvey," a cardiopulmonary patient simulator, or SimMom, a simulator that can give "birth" to a newborn infant. Those running the simulation can change the blood pressure, pulse, heart sounds and breath sounds of the "patients" at a touch of the button.

"The technology we have in the simulation center allows us to really customize the simulations and situations based on the students' learning goals and needs," Rodgers said. "We have simulation operation specialists who work closely with faculty and clinical educators to design, build and run the simulations in the center."

A control room in the IU Interprofessional Simulation CenterView print quality image
David Rodgers, director of the center, runs a simulation from a control room. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

During each simulation, students are assigned specific roles in line with their health profession, such as physician or nurse, while other students may take on the role of family member or observer. The group reviews the objectives of the simulation before starting, which could include learning to make basic patient assessments or tackling more emergent or fast-changing medical situations. Following the simulation, those involved meet in one of the center's dedicated debriefing rooms to review what went well and identify further opportunities for learning.

"Interprofessional education is all about learning with, about and from each other," Rodgers said. "This center is specifically designed for this. It brings it all together and creates purposeful interactions between students from various programs."

And like the old real estate adage -- location, location, location -- Rodgers said the full opening of the Regional Academic Health Center will be a big move forward in the philosophy of how the space is used.

"We can discover what we can do together -- IU and IU Health," he said. "I'm confident we'll find new opportunities we haven't even thought of yet as we all begin to work and collaborate more closely together."