Mobile simulation program brings medical training to Washington communities

A Ford F-350 with a truck bed topper.
One area where the mobile unit, a Ford F-350 with a truck bed topper, could help meet a critical need is by bringing simulation training to rural community physicians hoping to acquire advanced skills.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine launched its first mobile simulation unit to bring simulation-based medical education and training to WSU’s regional medical campuses and Washington communities.

Simulation education bridges the gap between learning in the classroom and providing care in clinical settings by allowing learners to practice with manikins and “standardized patients,” real people trained to act out various patient scenarios. Research has shown that this hands-on practice builds confidence in performing advanced clinical skills and improves patient safety.

One area where the mobile unit, a Ford F-350 with a truck bed topper, could help meet a critical need is by bringing simulation training to rural community physicians hoping to acquire advanced skills.

As part of their continuing medical education requirements, physicians often seek specialized certification in areas such as laparoscopic surgery, which uses small incisions and a camera to examine abdominal organs. Previously, Washington physicians interested in simulation-based laparoscopy training had to travel to Seattle or out of state, a particular challenge for rural providers who may be one of only a few doctors in their area and unable to travel for long. The mobile simulation unit will bring this type of training to physicians where they are.

“It was always our goal as a college to have a mobile simulation presence across the state,” said Chris Martin, EdD, director of simulation-based training. “The mobile simulation unit helps make that a reality.”

The unit, which was made possible through investments by donors including Sheryl and Mark Ossello, is part of the WSU College of Medicine’s Virtual Clinical Center at WSU Spokane. The center is used to teach basic and advanced clinical skills in simulated outpatient and inpatient care settings. It is also equipped to produce low-cost training materials with a 3D printer and lab.

With the mobile unit, center staff can now transport equipment and bring their simulation expertise to classrooms and similar spaces across the state to train WSU medical students, WSU resident physicians, faculty preceptors, and other community providers. They also offer trainings for students from the departments of Speech and Hearing Sciences and Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.

“Anything that we can do here in Spokane we are able to do statewide,” said Martin. “This streamlines the process.”  

The center is equipped with adult male, female, infant, and newborn manikins with advanced capabilities like breathing and sweating. Students across the state use the manikins to take clinical skill exams and practice procedures including placing IVs and feeding tubes, performing CPR and intubation, and delivering babies. The experience helps prepare them to work with real patients later in their training.   

“These trainings are learner-centric and strive to maintain a psychologically safe environment for all,” Martin said. “Simulation is really an adaptable, scalable educational delivery model that’s responsive to the organization’s vision and the learners’ needs.”

The WSU College of Medicine is well-positioned to bring cutting-edge technology and training to communities that would otherwise lack access to it. The college was one of the first community-based medical schools to invest in a Resuscitation Quality Improvement (RQI) Simulation Station, a new method for teaching CPR with manikins that allows learners to practice basic and advanced cardiac life support for adults as well as children. Learning on the RQI station has gained WSU medical students a reputation for providing high-quality CPR, Martin said.

“Effective training saves lives,” he said. “By having our students work with the manikin and be instructed in how to do that, they are able to demonstrate those skills as part of the care team and be comfortable and confident in them.”

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