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VOL. 10 | NO. 26 | Saturday, June 24, 2017

$37 Million UTHSC Medical Simulation Facility Changing How Students Learn

By Patrick Lantrip

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While learning on the job is pretty common in most professions, when it comes to health care the stakes are much higher, which is why the University of Tennessee Health Science Center decided to invest in new a $37 million medical simulation facility that will offer students unprecedented access to hands-on training.

Artist's rendering of the $37 million medical simulation facility under construction now on the University of Tennessee Health Science Center campus. Several disciplines will be simulated, creating a unique learning experience for students. (Submitted)

Scheduled for completion this fall, the three-story, 45,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building will house a quilt-like amalgamation of exam rooms, hospital beds, operating tables, residential settings and even a pharmacy, which will be used by a multidisciplinary group of medial students working together to garner invaluable team-building and hands-on experience.

“We know that the No. 1 reason medical errors occur in this country is because of lack of communication,” said Dr. Chad Epps, executive director of health care simulation at UTHSC. “So one way we can address that is by making sure that our students learn and understand the principles of teamwork and a big part of that is how well you communicate with other members of the team.”

Each of the three floors of the center will have a unique layout and connect to a nearby general education build on UTHSC’s Medical District campus.

The first floor will feature multiple hospital-bed skill stations, and a home environment with a bed, kitchen and bathroom to simulate home visits. Meanwhile, the second floor will simulate more of a hospital setting with regular patient rooms and specialized patients rooms. Lastly, the third floor will have a full-service pharmacy environment and 24 patient exam rooms.

During the simulations, the future doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical technicians will either interact with mannequins, paid actors who are hired to mimic certain ailments and conditions by the university, or a combination of both.

“We had a person who had a pelvic simulator between their legs and had a sheet over it,” Epps said. “The simulation component of that is able to deliver the baby, so you get the benefits of both. You get a real person to interact with, but also simulate a medical condition.”

After the simulations are run, Epps said the students and instructors will often break off into one of the building’s debriefing rooms, where they will be able to review footage of their performance, much like an athlete and coach analyzing game footage.

The building was designed by Sim Health and local architectural firm brg3s.

Lead design architect Jason Jackson with brg3s said this project will help attract medical students on a national level.

“Pharmacy, dental, exams, surgery – all of those things are being simulated simultaneously so it starts to act like an actual hospital,” Jackson said. “You’ll have a lot of these functions happening at the same place at the same time, so there is a diversity to the student’s engagement in the practice.”

From a design standpoint, Jackson said that one of the hardest parts was fitting everything into a limited space without crowding the public spaces.

“At the same time, we were attaching this to the general education building on campus, and that’s where most of the student flow will come from,” Jackson said. “We made all of the levels of the building match the existing levels of the general education building, so that there would not have to be elevators or stairs needed to get from the general education building to the sim building.”

While designing the building, one of the goals was to increase the feel of a campus-like atmosphere, and strengthen the pedestrian experience.

“We wanted to reticulate formally with the architecture, an openness,” he said. “The glass corners, the entries, the way that the building is sided on the street and carves away do all of those things.”

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