Challenges are real at NC simulated hospital

HICKORY, N.C. (AP) — Catawba Valley Community College students were birthing babies, treating motorcycle wreck victims and responding to gunshot wounds as the largest simulated hospital east of the Mississippi was unveiled.

"This is absolutely the most 21st-century, cutting-edge training in the state," said Gov. Bev Perdue. "The only way out for us in America is an education and this school is doing that."

CVCC President Garrett Hinshaw said many area leaders and educational institutions and hospitals collaborated to create the hospital, calling it a "national landmark in health care education."

"This brings classrooms to life," he said.

The Regional Simulated Hospital fills all 27,000 square feet on the top floor of the Cuylar Dunbar building on campus. When the building was built completed five years ago, that floor was just a shell, created for when the college would expand.

Hinshaw saw health care as a rising need, and pushed for the creation of the simulated hospital. The college received about $3.7 million for the hospital, in addition to what it cost to construct the building. That includes the cost for the hospital beds, electronic equipment and the 23 high-tech mannequins.

These aren't just any mannequins. They can blink, sweat and react to treatment like a real person would — even "dying" when students do not administer proper treatment. One mannequin can talk to you. Another can squirt blood. They allow health care students to take the mannequins' pulse, blood pressure, perform CPR, check their pulmonary functions and numerous other things they could only experience on live people before now.

Several of the rooms where students can train have an observation area where their instructors can watch through a two-way mirror. Others can watch from the hallway, through large, plate-glass doors or windows. Each simulation can be recorded with cameras set up from the ceiling and on the wall, to use as a teaching exercise later.

Amanda Cockeran, 28, is a second-year respiratory therapy student at CVCC. She said she was happy the college was getting the new hospital.

"You learn more here and get to experience different scenarios," she said. "And with us in one spot, you feel more like a hospital team."

At the open house Sept. 23, several students demonstrated their skills to numerous guests, including Sen. Austin Allran, Rep. Mark Hilton, NC Community College System President Scott Ralls and Perdue.

Cockeran, who was working with a child mannequin, said it was like a preview of what's to come.

"I'm a little nervous, having everyone watch, but in a hospital, the family will be watching you, too," she said. "You just take what you learn here and put it into your clinicals."

Allran said the Sim Hospital, as it has been called the last few years, will boost the area economically.

There has already been talk about area nurses using the facility to train. When you step off the elevator, it appears as though you arrive at the lobby of a hospital. There are areas for every health care program CVCC offers except for radiography and dental hygiene. These programs will remain in their current areas because the school was unable to transfer their equipment, said Mary Miller, community relations director.

The respiratory students have already begun to move into the facility, Hinshaw said. The other programs will begin moving in over the next few weeks, and will hopefully be finished by the public open house in October.

Funding for the simulated hospital has been in the works since 2006, when the community college system and the state legislature allocated more than $1 million.

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