Officials at Maine Medical Center, (MMC) the largest medical center in the state, has opened its new simulation lab, a virtual environment designed to train medical students and staff.

The Hannaford Center for Safety, Innovation and Simulation at Maine Medical Center (MMC) is an 18,000-square-foot facility that houses state-of-the-art medical learning at the hospital’s Brighton Campus in Portland. It includes operating and trauma rooms that are identical to those at Maine Med and a skills lab where students practice procedures such as stitching sutures or performing colonoscopies on sophisticated mannequins.

The simulation lab houses a dozen medical mannequins, at a cost of over $300,000 each, that mimic humans. These lifelike mannequins breathe, sweat, blink, bleed, and exhibit symptoms of minor or major injury, as well as mild to life threatening diseases – almost anything clinical staff might see in live patients. Technicians and instructors observing students from behind one-way mirrors can manipulate a mannequin by raising its blood pressure, even sending it into cardiac arrest – thus exposing learners to situations they may encounter in a real-life patient situation.

The center also includes patient rooms where students can build their patient communication skills and develop a patient- and family-centered bedside manner. Actors are used to portray patients, and are trained to behave or respond in specific ways during “patient exams.”

The $5.82 million facility was made possible in part by a $500,000 donation from The Hannaford Charitable Foundation. Only a handful of hospitals in the nation have similar facilities housed in one comprehensive location.

“A simulation center offers many benefits to learners,” says Randy Darby, MD, director of Medical Simulation at Maine Medical Center, who notes that pilots use similar technology to learn or sharpen their flying skills. “Simulation training provides a safe, efficient method to apply medical knowledge and get clinical experience in a virtual environment. Although the environment is controlled, it’s very realistic, and provides an experience very similar to what learners will encounter with real patients. In addition, if students want additional practice inserting a breathing tube, for example, they’ll be able to hone her skill at the simulation center, and be significantly more proficient when a real-life situation arises.”


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