HARLINGEN — A group of computerized mannequins are set to help bring the University of Texas Rio Grande medical school to life.
A simulation hospital equipped with 10-12 rooms, including a delivery room, operating room and a replica living room where students can practice giving bad news, will open its doors Wednesday on the Regional Academic Health Center campus in Harlingen. Dubbed UT-RGV “Smart Hospital,” the facility will provide medical students and others the chance to ply their trade on robotic patients before they deal with human lives.
“What you do with a simulation hospital is to train people to help develop their clinical skills without doing it on real people, but doing it on mannequins that are as close to real people as technology can get today,” said Dr. Joseph McCormick, the vice president for South Texas programs for the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.
In place of live patients, computerized mannequins are set up in hospital beds on the Harlingen RAHC’s second floor. They can be programmed to go through a variety of mishaps during training exercises across the medical spectrum — from obstetrics and gynecology to surgery to hospice care.
The exercises are filmed and played back later for students and faculty so they can assess what went right or wrong.
The simulation hospital is also step in the new medical school’s path to accreditation. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education requires medical students receive some kind of simulation education to become certified health professionals, said Kristina Stillsmoking, the director of the UT-RGV Smart Hospital.
“So this is a way for that to happen,” she said.
It will also provide team training to groups of medical professionals. Students, doctors, physician assistants, nurses and community health workers can all work on the same scenarios at the same time.
“This is really being able to create a setting, and the excitement about the setting is getting doctors, nurses, pharmacists, PAs, everybody on the team getting together to provide better care,” said Dr. Francisco Fernandez, the inaugural dean of the UT-RGV medical school. Breakdown in communication is where medical errors often occur, he added, and the team-based training is a way to correct that.
And other Rio Grande Valley schools and hospitals will be able to join the team.
Members of the South Texas Simulation Education Network — UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, South Texas College, Laredo Community College, three health professional high schools, local hospitals and others — will have access to the facility to train professionals in a variety of medical fields.
The UT System Board of Regents appropriated $10 million to design and build the 15,000-square-foot Smart Hospital, according to a UT System news release.