RUSM Simulation Institute Offers High-Tech Medical Education


Simulation Manager Lisa Buckley with a simulated patient

Simulation Manager Lisa Buckley with a simulated patient

The Simulation Institute at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), which opened in 2009, is a notable example of RUSM’s commitment to advanced educational technology. It helps provide clinical context for the basic sciences to medical students during their first two years of medical school. Each simulation experience is tied closely to the curriculum in both timing and content to correlate basic science course material with the simulation experience.

“Technology is certainly part of the fabric of Ross as an institution,” said Joseph A. Flaherty, dean and chancellor of RUSM. “Our goal is to provide students with educational experiences that, very early in the program, stimulate their thinking about what it means to be a physician.”

Dr. Kelly Rich, medical director of the Atlanta Medical Center Family Medicine Clinic, visited the facility recently and exclaimed, “That’s amazing. It’s state-of-the-art. Wonderful!”

RUSM Students Start Early

Simulation is arguably the most important innovation in medical education over the past two decades. The increased availability of high-fidelity patient simulators has enabled educators to provide medical students with the opportunity to explore, acquire, and practice clinical skills through realistic patient scenarios in a standardized fashion. Students can now take the initial steps to patient care in a safe environment.
First-semester students at RUSM are able to assess, examine, diagnose and treat lifelike patients in the Simulation Institute, which is set up like a hospital floor, with a waiting area and 10 treatment rooms for simulated patients. The rooms have monitors and crash-carts by the bedsides equipped with medications, fluids, a defibrillator, and oxygen.

“The students really love it,” said RUSM Simulation Manager, Lisa Buckley, MS, PA-C. “They get to act as doctors and they can’t make mistakes that cause harm to live patients in here. That makes it a really safe environment for learning. If they make errors we point them out and talk about what would have happened to the patient.” There are also computers in each room so students can look up anything they may need. In 2013, the facility accommodated 2,225 participants during 4,450 student-contact hours as part of the curriculum.

The simulation equipment is matched to the level of the learners. In the second semester, RUSM students are introduced to Harvey, a cardiovascular patient simulator. First demonstrated in the late 1960s, the Harvey patient simulator has advanced over time to perform a wide array of cardiac functions including breathing, varying blood pressure, and heart murmurs.

“He’s a great tool,” Buckley said. “You can listen to all kinds of pathology on him.” She said that in the past, students had to wait until they had access to real patients in a hospital before they might hear, for example, what a heart murmur sounds like. “It helps students in many ways,” she added. “It helps with teamwork. When we run cases we work together as a team and everyone has a role. One person takes the blood pressure and another one places the patient on the monitor. The teams then discuss the diagnoses.”

Associate Dean, David Pederson, said, “It’s unusual to have this level of sophistication in the first two years of medical school. The uniqueness of RUSM is that we start so early with our students. We’ve invested heavily in the technology. It shows commitment to students to put together a facility like this.”

In addition to the hours that students spend in the Simulation Institute during classes on which they are graded, they also utilize the facility to study and practice on their own time. There is supervision by a technician during study and practice times, and a faculty member is available. “Student feedback is always positive,” Pederson said. “They appreciate spending time with a well-trained clinician.”

There are also automated cases available through videos, movies and flash presentations to facilitate self-study. In preparation for student practical exams, the facility is open seven days a week until 10 p.m. This schedule “lets the student be flexible,” Buckley said.

Faculty at the Simulation Institute

Crucial to the success of the simulation program are the faculty members. “The Simulation Institute faculty members are all MDs who have had positions in academic medicine or private practice,” Pederson said. “We also use the Center for Medical Simulation in Boston, where we send faculty for training, and we run weekly faculty development workshops.”

RUSM’s simulation faculty recently led a workshop on simulation operations at the 14th annual International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) which was held in San Francisco in January. The topics covered by the RUSM team included faculty training, simulation course preparation, mannequin programming and equipment, and fidelity. “We’re looked upon to teach others about simulation-based education in the first two years of medical school,” said Pederson, who was one of the workshop presenters. “We had about 45 educators, doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the country who participated.”

Recognition for the Simulation Institute

The Simulation Institute recently went through a voluntary, rigorous self-study and a site visit resulting in accreditation by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH). “This is a big honor,” said Flaherty. “The accreditation by SSH is a testament to our level of excellence that is now recognized internationally. It acknowledges our commitment to the quality of education and our investment in a technologically advanced learning environment.”

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