Temple Times Online Edition
    MAY 25, 2006
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Students get real-world practice in new Temple simulation center

(Photo by Joseph V. Labolito/University Photography)

Medical and nursing students respond as a team to a simulated "code blue" at the Institute for Clinical Simulation and Patient Safety at the Medical School.

Temple nursing and medical students were put to the test recently when their patient, Steve Johnson, went into cardiac arrest. Could the "nurses" and "doctors" work well together? Would each person understand his or her role on the healthcare team?

These students were part of a new study looking at the value of the two groups learning together in a simulated medical environment, and reflects a burgeoning trend in nursing and medical education.

Until recently, doctors and nurses have trained and learned separately. Yet once in the working world, the two professions work very closely together, side by side, often in highly stressful situations.

"Our hope is that collaboration between the two disciplines at the student level will help them understand and appreciate each other's expertise and feel more comfortable working together," said Pat Dillon, lead investigator on the study, and assistant professor of nursing in the College of Health Professions.

The researchers are analyzing the students' perceptions and attitudes about each other's roles in hopes of improving the nurse-doctor relationship. Many experts believe that a stronger relationship between doctors and nurses results in better patient care.

A team of eight nursing and medical students were assigned to roles on a medical team caring for Johnson, a lifelike mannequin that talks and breathes, and that was programmed to go into cardiac arrest. When they visited Johnson the day after his surgery, all was well, but there were ominous clues in his medical chart. Two hours later, Johnson complained of chest pain and suddenly stopped breathing. The students were expected to act quickly as a team to determine the problem and treat the patient. Teachers and students debriefed after the exercise.

"The students thought that this experience was much more real than previous exercises," said Lawrence Kaplan, professor and chief of internal medicine and medicine clerkship director. "The exercise made it very clear that the practice of medicine is a team sport, and that physicians contribute to a part, but not all, of a patient's care."

The exercise took place at the Institute for Clinical Simulation and Patient Safety at the School of Medicine, a new $3 million renovated space for the education of medical, nursing and other health profession students, as well as residents and practicing nurses and physicians. At 15,000 square feet, the institute is believed to be the largest in the region and encompasses both simulation and standardized patient programs. It's also uniquely interdisciplinary, training the various health professionals together.

The institute houses programmable, anatomically detailed and physiologically functional mannequins that are used to teach skills such as intubation, critical thinking and decision-making through simulated medical scenarios. Simulation allows students to practice taking care of patients in a safe environment and to make mistakes without any consequences.

The institute also houses the standardized patient program in what look like doctor's offices. This program uses actors trained to be "patients." They present symptoms of various illnesses and help students learn to take histories, conduct physical exams and make diagnoses.

Dillon and Kaplan, along with assistant professor of nursing Kim Noble, are now analyzing the results of the study and expect to report on findings later this year.

For more information about the Institute for Clinical Simulation and Patient Safety, visit www.temple.edu/medicine/education/sims.htm.

- By Eryn Jelesiewicz