Students studying healthcare at West Virginia University have access to state-of-the-art simulation technology to ensure they are safer and smarter before encountering patients in everyday and critical care situations. A recent addition to the David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS) is no different. Named HAL, the newest ‘patient’ admitted to the Center is a cutting-edge advanced interdisciplinary patient simulator.
Designed for students enrolled in WVU’s five Health Sciences schools – Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing,Pharmacy and Public Health – STEPS includes two 10-bed open lab spaces, 12 patient exam rooms, a large surgical skills unit, an operating room, a mother-child suite, four ICU setups and the latest technology, including augmented reality and virtual reality equipment and high fidelity manikins, like HAL and Premature Anne.
“HAL is a next-generation technology that expands our capabilities,” Adam Hoffman, simulation education specialist, said. “We have several manikins that do similar things, but they don’t move and only speak from an operator controlling them. HAL addresses some of those limitations and is an expanding technology that will get even better with time.”
Equipped with many industry-first capabilities, including conversational speech enhanced by artificial intelligence, lifelike motor movement and next-gen simulated physiology, HAL provides opportunities for trainees across disciplines and at all levels, including healthcare professionals at WVU Medicine, to develop transferable skills in emergency care, intensive care and medical-surgical nursing.
“I feel much more comfortable in the hospital scenario because of these simulations,” Garrett Efaw, a student in the School of Nursing, said. “Whenever I started [the nursing program], I honestly thought they threw us at real people and that terrified me. But then I realized we have really great lifelike manikins and simulation materials here, and it's not as scary as it seems at first. They really prepare you and teach you how to communicate with family members and patients and what actions to perform.”
The simulator’s software controls the manikin’s physiology, monitors students’ actions and produces extensive data for debriefing sessions. It also provides real-time feedback to facilitators, enabling immediate teaching interventions.
To support patients in the Appalachian region, STEPS educators can program HAL to create realistic experiences based on scenarios they may encounter in their future career.
“As the land-grant institution in West Virginia, we are focused heavily on rural health,” Hoffman said. “HAL can present all the common diseases we see in that population, such as heart attack, stroke and COPD.
“The long term impact is seen by the patients in West Virginia as their healthcare professionals are better trained, faster and more consistent. Patients can expect that not only have their healthcare providers seen a certain disease in training, but that they’ve practiced the treatment until they are ready to care for them. This should give the residents of our state confidence in our healthcare providers and the systems of care they rely on.”
Through the use of technology available in STEPS, WVU students have the opportunity to improve their skills and confidence in assessment and treatment and learn from mistakes in a controlled and psychologically safe environment before encountering patients in the field.
“The students and the public benefit from simulations and HAL, specifically, by seeing the common and uncommon presentations of serious conditions before they treat patients,” Hoffman added. “They get to repeat a scenario until they understand it and provide the correct treatment, and then get debriefed by simulation faculty on how they can improve.”
“During a simulation we have a person recording and keeping track of all the procedures we've done,” Ben Davis, a nursing student, explained. “The professors all show great dedication to their jobs and real interest in getting students prepared for the clinical setting.”
“Back all the way to middle school, I had always thought nursing is what I'm going do,” Efaw said. “Both of my parents are nurses; my mom works here at WVU in the Cancer Center and has been a nurse for almost 40 years. I never really thought about any other paths, but once I got to WVU and saw what it was all about, it confirmed that this is what I want to do.”
“I'm the first in my family to be in the medical field,” Davis said. “But the aspect of helping other people and improving someone's state makes it all worth it.”
Photo at Top: Students in the West Virginia University School of Nursing participate in a simulation training session in the David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS) utilizing HAL, a patient simulator equipped with many industry-first capabilities.
CONTACT: Jessica Wilmoth
Senior Communications Specialist
University Relations – Health Sciences