A $3 million medical simulation training and research center – complete with realistic mannequins programmed to mimic life-threatening medical conditions – opened Friday (Oct. 16) at West Virginia University.

Simulation training has been employed at WVU’s Health Sciences Center for years. But the new Simulation Training in Education and Patient Safety center, or STEPS, allows nursing, medical, pharmacy and dentistry students to work in teams learning clinical skills likely to be required during emergencies.

Private support of almost $400,000 was combined with $2.7 million in federal money secured by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd to underwrite the first phase of the 4,000-square-foot STEPS center.

“Simulation training offers so much to our students,” said David Wilks, M.D., chair of the STEPS committee and assistant dean for technology in medical education in the School of Medicine. “They can practice in a risk-free environment, learning critical skills while also developing a greater understanding of other team members’ roles.”

“It’s exciting to have technology that helps students develop skills such as opening a child’s airways or finding a tiny vein,” said Gail VanVoorhis, STEPS committee member and director of clinical practice for the School of Nursing. “The instructors can program a mannequin to go into cardiac arrest, for instance, and students then play out the scenario as the mannequin reacts to their treatments. Unlike real life, in simulation training we can stop and rewind.”

The STEPS center features:

  • Four labs that replicate the environments of emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating rooms
  • Two classrooms and two debriefing rooms
  • Sophisticated equipment that will store all scenarios and connect WVU’s main and regional Health Sciences (HSC) campuses

To mark the STEPS opening, a lecture will take place at noon Friday in the Fukushima Lecture Hall of the HSC Learning Center. Richard M. Satava, M.D., of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, will speak on “Robots – Virtual Reality and Beyond: The Future of Healthcare.”

A former flight surgeon, Dr. Satava is a science adviser to the U.S. Army and has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Committee on Health, Food and Safety. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters on advanced surgical technology, including virtual reality surgical simulation and surgery in space.

Following a reception, tours of the STEPS center will take place beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The second phase of STEPS is expected to add 8,000 square feet of teaching space to the center. WVU healthcare professionals also may use the STEPS center for continuing education to refresh and improve clinical skills.

CONTACT: Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service,
304-293-7087, brunaisa@wvuh.com