St. Elizabeth 'saves Christmas' with new Simulation Center

Imagine you’re a nurse in a hospital delivery room, and immediately after giving birth the mother starts hemorrhaging. It’s a situation you rarely face, maybe once in your career, but if you don’t do exactly the right thing very quickly, the mother’s life will be in peril.
How does the hospital ensure that you know what to do when there’s no time to think? How do they train you, the physician, the anesthesiologist and the facility’s blood bank staff to pull together as a team and make the correct decisions?
St. Elizabeth Healthcare is counting on its new Simulation Center to make the difference.
The SIM Center officially opened in late October as a 23,000-square-foot addition to the St. Elizabeth Training and Education Center, which itself opened in June. SETEC was fashioned from a former conference center in Erlanger to centralize all of St. Elizabeth’s staff training and development functions.
The SIM Center utilizes lifelike mannequins in realistic hospital rooms with state-of-the-art equipment to create real-world scenarios for staff. And these aren’t the passive mannequins you might have seen used in CPR demonstrations.
SIM Center Manager Megan Vasseur says the mannequins have heartbeats, breathing sounds and pulses everywhere we have pulses, and some even blink, sweat and cry. One female mannequin delivers a baby, complete with a reservoir of blood and bodily fluids that do their thing at the appropriate time.
“These mannequins are very realistic, which is kind of a strange experience at first if you’re not used to it,” Vasseur said. “But they provide a much higher level of experience for our staff and help them develop better skills than the old way of working on each other or on live volunteers.
“We focus a lot of our simulation work on low-volume, high-risk situations that don’t happen all that often, but when they do, you have to be proficient at fixing them. With these mannequins, if you make a mistake it’s not life and death — you learn from your mistakes, practice your skills and get better.”
Training sessions are now being videotaped at the SIM Center, with staff and training supervisors gathering afterward to analyze the video and debrief, then go again. Previously, training sessions were watched live by supervisors and notes exchanged.
‘SETEC has frankly been awesome’
The acceleration of high-tech training concepts is indicative of the ever-changing nature of healthcare, explains St. Elizabeth Director of Staff Development Sandy Delaney.
“Healthcare is constantly changing, both in technological advances and in issues we’re dealing with, like the current focus on fighting addiction,” she said. “We always have to adapt to those changes and stay ahead of the curve, so we’re working to create realistic situations in the SIM Center that help us enhance our proficiency.”
Staff development efforts at St. Elizabeth had been disjointed, Delaney said, due to a lack of space. Training sessions were split between two locations, with tight schedules requiring staff members to sign up far in advance and supervisors traveling back and forth.
At the end of 2015, St. Elizabeth took over the lease of the former METS Center off of I-275 in Erlanger. The event and conference center had been operated by Northern Kentucky University, and St. Elizabeth renovated 43,000 square feet of classrooms, banquet rooms and an auditorium to create SETEC.
But the space wasn’t adequate for the full-simulation program St. Elizabeth wanted to develop, Delaney said, so an addition was designed and built at a reported cost of $3 million.
The SIM Center features 11 simulation rooms as well as classrooms and a skills lab. One room is focused on labor and delivery, while another can be set up as an emergency room or an operating room.
“The space looks like a real hospital, with a nurses station, supply rooms and these simulated patient rooms,” Vasseur said. “St. Elizabeth recently renovated our Ft. Thomas hospital, so we modeled this space after it to make it appear more realistic.”
St. Elizabeth hosted a public open house Nov. 30 to unveil the entire SETEC facility, which Delaney said will be used for community outreach efforts in addition to training.
Staff did a SIM Center demonstration during the event in the ER simulation room, when an EMS ambulance brought in a live patient who’d had a heart attack — Santa Claus. He was treated in the ER room and improved quickly to resume his gift-delivery rounds; the open house was subtitled “How St. Elizabeth Saved Christmas.”
Bringing the public inside SETEC is important, Delaney said, because St. Elizabeth wants it to become a community resource. Staff members have hosted health education conferences and public health assessments as well as provided meeting space for the Special Olympics, a Veterans Day outreach program and area nonprofit groups.
“The development of SETEC has frankly been awesome,” Delaney said. “It really shows St. Elizabeth’s commitment to staff development and to being a resource for the community.”
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John Fox is an experienced freelance writer and editor who served as managing editor of Soapbox from December 2014 to August 2016.