The past few decades have seen tremendous advances in the use of simulation for teaching and training healthcare professionals of all types, from medical students to first responders.
At St. Luke’s University Health Network, these efforts are aided by a highly specialized, state-of-the-art Simulation Center (Sim) and 3D Printing and Innovation Lab that prove to be invaluable resources for the whole community.
St. Luke’s Sim Center is based at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem, where it designs and produces a variety of simulation materials and models, called task trainers, and offers training sessions both at the inside and outside the network – for a growing list of communities. the partners.
These partners include groups as small as a local scout troop and as large as divisions of the military and homeland security, noted Megan Augustine, director of the St. Luke’s Network Simulation Center and Lab. 3D printing and innovation. “We are also working with our Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine, Parkland School District and Allentown Police Departments, as well as several EMS services including Lehighton, Emmaus and Bethlehem,” she said.
The impact of St. Luke’s Simulation Center can be partially measured by the number of learners reached. In 2014, during its inaugural year, approximately 4,600 learners passed through it. In 2021, that number has grown to 15,000 learners – growth driven in part by the Sim Center’s mobile simulation truck that can expand opportunities to rural campuses across the network. In 2019, the center added a 34-foot “Simulation in Motion” mobile truck that is primarily used for educational purposes, but can be put into service as a live treatment center in an emergency.
The work between the Sim Center and the Allentown Police Department has been a “godsend for us,” according to APD Sergeant Chris Hendricks, a trained paramedic who leads the department’s ODT-5, or Office Down Training (First Five Minutes). The Sim Center’s educational sessions and materials were able to “help us put these officers in scenarios as close to real life as possible, like a situation where an officer has been shot and is bleeding to death right in front of you.”
By allowing officers to experience high levels of stress through intense simulations, they will be better able to handle a number of crisis situations they will no doubt encounter in their roles, he said. “And Megan (Augustine) has been personally fantastic to work with. The skills that officers learn through these and other training sessions have been applied hundreds of times in real-life police situations. I can say that she really makes a difference on our streets.
The task trainers used in these simulations are produced in the Network’s in-house 3D lab, which are much cheaper than those purchased from external vendors. They can also be customized to meet a specific medical requirement. For example, Augustine’s team can create a 3D model of a cancer patient’s tumor to help doctors — and the patient — visualize the exact location and size.
Custom task trainers enable its staff to conduct basic first aid programs – such as wound care – with groups of students. “And we regularly participate in exercises involving large numbers of casualties where we use real people, simulating real injuries and real responses to those injuries,” Augustine said. At the end of these sessions, she and her team hold a feedback session to critically assess response capacity and identify areas for improvement.
Providing these realistic scenarios is essential in preparing for any emergencies a medical professional might face.
To facilitate this level of training and preparation, Augustine and her team have created a series of custom 3D negative molds to create, for example, injection pads (used to train students on how to inject) or suture pads (for teaching suturing techniques) with higher fat and muscle levels or with different skin tones. They also created more challenging models, such as a thyroid biopsy trainer, EVD (external ventricular drain) trainer, or Cric Trainer (cricothyrotomy simulator).