Adopting New Technology in Healthcare Education: Tallahassee Community College’s Simulation Center Implements Electronic Health Records Enhancing Simulations
Article Written by: Carla I. Dormeus, M.S., EMT
Simulation Program Manager Healthcare Professions Division
Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education
Tallahassee Community College
Developing and expanding usage in a Simulation Center is not an easy task. In the last 6 years as the Simulation Program Manager at Tallahassee Community College (TCC), I have seen the tremendous growth in our program and the challenges those changes created.
Our beginnings date back to the 1990’s when TCC converted two classrooms into simulation rooms with a separate control room. The human patient simulators were used by various healthcare programs which created a need for more simulators and space. In 2011, the Healthcare Programs moved to the newly built Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education located 6 miles from campus, in the heart of the Tallahassee medical community. TCC’s Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education features more than 85,000 square feet of learning space devoted to diagnostic medical sonography, emergency medical services, nursing, radiologic technology, respiratory care, pharmacy technology, surgical technology and allied health. TCC’s Simulation Center is located on the second (main) floor of Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education (GCHE). It is a 5,000 square foot facility used for training future and current healthcare professionals.
The Center has a total of six simulation rooms, two control rooms, one skills lab, three HeartCode rooms and two debriefing rooms. The simulation suites are designed as hospital rooms and provide real-world simulated experiences for the students in the Nursing, Emergency Medical Services, Respiratory Care, Radiologic Technology, and Dental programs. A variety of simulators are available to students; TCC currently has 14 adult, three pediatric, two infants, one newborn and one maternal simulator. These simulators allow staff to present different scenarios to students with the purpose of improving patient safety. In conjunction with faculty, the Simulation Center staff develops simulations that incorporate the use of team work, communication and psychomotor skills. Each simulator is unique and presents different features that can be used when training our students on specific skills. Besides the patient simulators, TCC’s Simulation Center also has four Virtual IV trainers and four complete HeartCode systems that allow students to obtain BLS and ACLS certification for Healthcare providers.
While there are many vendors that offer attractive systems with excellent features, it can be hard at first to choose the ones that will be a best fit to your programs. When TCC’s Health Care Programs moved to the new facility, we were faced with the great opportunity to upgrade our outdated technology to new state of the art technology. It was a great opportunity but challenging as well. New technology could definitely help our programs, but it could also hinder them if the wrong choices were made.
We often face the challenge of choosing the right vendor that will provide the best product to satisfy our needs and help with the usage and expansion of our program. Simulation has multiple components that need to be addressed: human patient simulators, task trainers, simulation staff, AV equipment, electronic health records (EHR), scheduling and supplies inventory among others. Input on technological decisions has to be a collaborative effort between faculty, staff and administration. The availability and quality of the educational technology used to train healthcare professionals requires a coordinated effort between faculty and staff to make sure the flow of the simulation scenarios is conducive to learning.
Four years after the grand opening of our simulation center we had top of the line human patient simulators and audio visual system, but we were still missing a big component: an electronic health record system (EHR). The use of EHR is becoming the norm in U.S. healthcare and the same is true for the Tallahassee medical community. It is important to faculty at TCC to provide health students with the experiences which are best practice and so more pressure was being exerted to find a solution.
I had spent over two years reviewing EHR systems that were available for education and specifically for simulation. The features we were looking for where very different than the ones we would need in a real clinical environment. The major challenges we needed to overcome where finding software with the feel of a real EHR but would allow the flexibility to work in “simulated time”. We also wanted to find a system that was user friendly so that faculty and students could be easily trained. We believe that learning a specific software should not take all the time allocated for a simulation exercise; this would frustrate student, faculty, and would defeat the original purpose of a simulation exercise.
In July, 2014, MedAffinity installed its electronic health records software, MedAffinity EHR, on computer workstations in simulation rooms at TCC’s GCHE. The first two programs that used MedAffinity EHR during simulations were Nursing and Respiratory care. Because these two programs most readily embraced simulation and wanted to see how this new technology was going to be welcomed by faculty, students and simulation staff. The response we received from faculty and staff was overwhelmingly positive. It took 15 minutes to train them on the basic navigation of the system. Faculty were able to input new “Physician Orders” during the simulations that would automatically populate in the patient’s charts for students to access. It gave us so much flexibility to be able to make changes “on the fly” as happens in the hospital setting.
Since the initial implementation, we have been adding new scenarios to the database. This has allowed us to keep all the scenarios we need during the semester readily available to be used at any given time, therefore minimizing the amount of time simulation staff need to spend looking through charts and trying to find the correct scenario. The feedback we have received from the students has been very positive as well. Students liked how user friendly the software is and also they enjoyed being able to experience a real EHR that has been tailored for education. Students no longer carry bits of paper around with orders written on them and so their experience is even more realistic. We believe that the experience the students receive at TCC’s simulation Center should be similar to the real world they will encounter as soon as they graduate and join the workforce.
We are currently close to start our third semester using MedAffinity’s EHR. The original plan was to implement the nursing program’s piece over 4 semesters, but they will complete implementation in three semesters. The features this EHR has that we have found to be most valuable for its usage in education and specifically in simulation are:
- The EHR interface is organized to allow the entire patient’s information to be accessible to the students on a single screen. There is no need to go over tabs and different windows to be able to find the information needed.
- The system is flexible and allows the creation of templates tailored to your programs or institution. Templates can be created in minutes and can be saved for future use. The system also allows importing PDF files and saving them as templates.
- Entering notes in the system is as easy as typing a word document.
- The system allows resetting patient charts at the end of simulation exercises. After the simulation exercise ends, simulation staff can easily reset the patient’s chart to the original state.
- The system generates a patient arm band that can be scanned for patient verification purposes.
- The medication administration record (MAR) is integrated with a scanner system so that students can administer medications and confirm patient identity.
Implementing MedAffinity’s EHR in our simulation center has been one of the smoothest adoptions we have undergone in our center. MedAffinity has enhanced the student’s experience by providing them with another tool to make simulated patient care more realistic and a better learning tool. It has also given the simulation staff and faculty the prefect flexible tool to teach students, digitally manage the simulation’s library and minimize prep time.