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New Sim Center Improves Veterans Health Care

Grand opening guests view an emergence delirium simulation.
Dr. Carolyn Clancy (right), Veterans Health Administration Deputy Under Secretary for Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks, and Dr. Jo-Anne Suffoletto, VA Butler Healthcare System, observe post-anesthesia staff demonstrating an emergence delirium simulation.

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System's new state-of-the-art simulation center serves a critical role in improving Veterans health care.

"Simulation is for everyone," said Dr. Lillian Emlet, interim education chief, during the center's May 29 grand opening at the University Drive campus. "When we practice together, we perform better together."

More than 80 staff, Veterans and visitors joined Emlet for the center's public debut.

The simulation center is the latest update to VA Pittsburgh's simulation-based training program. The $5.4 million center mimics the hospital's clinical spaces, including an operating room and inpatient and outpatient procedure rooms. The 4,400 square-foot center provides staff with a safe place to practice hands-on medical procedures and communication skills.

During the grand opening, post-anesthesia staff demonstrated a medical scenario in the new center's operating room. In the simulation, staff learned how to safely react when patients awake from anesthesia in a confused, frightened or violent state. The condition, known as emergence delirium, occurs in approximately one in four Veterans with PTSD. 

Emlet said a Vietnam Veteran who observed a similar demonstration in March reinforced the importance of such scenario-based training for VA staff.

"He said he was very happy to see us training because he could relate, having himself experienced what he called a bad wakeup," Emlet said.

Dr. Ali Sonel, VA Pittsburgh chief of staff, said simulated learning provides staff with a risk-free environment to practice their reactions to various stressors and events.

"This is an ideal teaching and learning tool in a high-stakes, life- or-death field like medicine," Sonel said. "It's practice. It's doing. It's an actual experience."

One of the newest simulations trains Veterans to administer naloxone to someone who has overdosed, which could help save lives. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. VA Pittsburgh has distributed more than 900 Narcan kits to patients for free. Each kit contains two nasal sprays.

Veterans can look forward to other simulation-based learning as the simulation training program grows.

If you think you might benefit from training available to Veterans in the simulation center, talk to your VA provider.

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