MUSC’s Simulation Center: The Future

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MUSC’s Simulation Center: The Future




Guest:  Dr. John Schaefer – College of Medicine, MUSC

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. John Schaefer is Director of the MUSC Healthcare Simulation Center.  Dr. Schaefer, let’s talk about what this very extraordinary lab, that you’ve developed here, allows for MUSC in the coming years, and decades.  What are the next stages of development?


Dr. John Schaefer:  I believe the center is one of the best in the country.  And, through use of that center and, also, it’s collaboration with others in the state; which is fairly unique, we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us to do educational research.  Educational research, historically, has suffered from the fact that you, actually, couldn’t control the experiment.  Therefore, what you go out of it was not always as powerful as basic science research.


Yet, nowadays, with simulation and the technology that’s evolving over the next few years, there’s the ability to actually control educational experiments.  And that’s important in the sense that traditional educational performance assessment in healthcare is not what you might think.  In other words, I hold a degree in medicine, and I’m licensed in this state.  But what that means is I took a written test.  I was interviewed by people.  I was asked questions.  But that doesn’t mean I can tie my shoes.  Now, I think I can, and I’ve practiced for over a decade, but there’s no test that says I’m a good anesthesiologist.  There’s no test that says you’re a good medical student.  There’s no test that says you’re a great nurse, or a paramedic. 


Simulation may provide part of the answer to performance evaluation and certification in terms of:  You are a good nurse.  You are a good doctor.  You are a good paramedic.  And when you go to a hospital, and you’re being sedated, or you’re undergoing a procedure, you can be comfortable, and confident, that your healthcare givers are actually highly trained, and they’re up to standards that are equivalent to like what pilots have to go through.  All high-cost, high risk industries use simulation for training and certification.  And I believe that our opportunity here is to play a significant role, at MUSC, in that evolution. 


It’s one of the few areas where we get to play, on a level playing field, with some of the top-tier institutions in the country.  We have a larger center than Harvard does.  We have a bigger one than Stanford.  Now, we’re using it more.  With the advent of data collection, that’s coming out over the next two years, we should have a very good opportunity, in multiple disciplines, to advance educational research to a level that doesn’t exist currently.


Dr. Linda Austin:  It happens that this week, Dr. Lisa Sanders, who is from Yale, who writes for the New York Times and helps with the screenwriting for House, is here at MUSC.  I heard her speak the other day.  One of the things she talks about is the importance of getting a great history and really listening carefully to the patient; listening for careful cues.  I would guess that piece of it is, perhaps, one of the most challenging things to use the simulators for.  Am I correct about that?


Dr. John Schaefer:  Well, we use a different type of simulator there.  That’s called a standardized patient.  So, what you use is an actor as a simulation to both practice and assess your ability to communicate.  And that’s where that type of simulator is routinely used now, in medicine and in nursing.  And, through that, I think we’ve been able to improve that.  I think there’s a ways to go.  But it actually is simulation on another level.  And, you’re right.  These computerized manikins are not the appropriate tools, in my opinion, to work on communication skills.  For that, you need to work with your patients and other people.  So, we can set up organized, measured encounters through standardized patient simulation. 


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. Schaefer, you have an endowed chair here, and that’s part of the Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) program.  Tell us what the opportunities for alliance with our sister institutions across the state are.


Dr. John Schaefer:  That’s a good point.  Through that alliance; and particularly in the area that I’m working in, we’re working with Clemson College of Nursing.  We’re working with USC.  We’re working with Greenville Tech; and a few other colleges.  And what it allows you to do is, one, they get the benefit of an economy of scale where they can rapidly get in the game of healthcare simulation.  But, for all of us, and at MUSC, that represents that we also gain from them.  At another level, the opportunity to collaborate at the level of research is a fairly unique opportunity.  Our data sets are actually tied in together where we can combine work that we’re doing here with work that’s going on in other parts of the state.  And that, particularly in nursing, is a very good opportunity to do powerful-type studies.  And that opportunity doesn’t really exist for most other institutions.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. Schaefer, thanks so much for talking with us today.


Dr. John Schaefer:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

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