By Terri Bernhardt

va 1The Orlando VA Medical Center is a patient-centered health care organization servicing almost 90,000 patients; it is committed to improving the health and well being of America’s veterans. The Medical Center is a collection of health care, research and education facilities that include the Community Living Center, the Residential Rehabilitation Program, two Outpatient Clinics located in Viera and Daytona, four Community Based Outpatient Clinics located in Clermont, Kissimmee, Leesburg, and Orange City, and the planned VHA National Simulation Center.

Central Florida has been anticipating this much-needed and larger facility to support Orlando Florida’s growing veteran population. Orlando’s VA Medical Center, once completed, will be a world-class treatment facility that will relieve Central Florida’s veterans the burden of traveling long distances for their inpatient care. Team Orlando interviewed Harry Robinson, National Program Manager for VA SimLEARN, for more information.

Above are architectural renderings of the VHA National Medical Center, courtesy of RLF/Ellerbe Becket

Above are architectural renderings of the VHA National Medical Center, courtesy of RLF/Ellerbe Becket

T.O.: The next phase of the Orlando VA Medical Center is rumored to be a high-tech national simulation and training center – is it still expected to go out for bid this summer?

Robinson: The request for proposal for construction of the VHA National Simulation Center has not been scheduled. We entered a construction documents (CD) phase in December 2012. This is scheduled to be completed in late May 2013. Subsequent to CD, follow-on steps are preparation / release of Request for Proposals (RFP), proposal evaluation, and contract award. Groundbreaking will occur after these steps.

T.O.: What is the proper name for this facility?

Robinson: VHA National Simulation Center

T.O.: When will it be finished?

Robinson: Estimated time for construction is 13-15 months.

T.O.: How large in capacity is the facility?

Robinson: The VHA National Simulation Center is being designed as a 51,000 gross, square foot building located immediately adjacent to the new Orlando VA Medical Center (VAMC) at the Medical City complex at Lake Nona, Fla. We’re working with Rogers, Lovelock and Fritz (RLF) in Baldwin Park for architecture and engineering designs. Our goal is to provide a high-technology, immersive training environment for health care providers to receive simulation-based clinical training, instruction and education. This includes nine multipurpose Orientation/Debrief rooms with seats for over 90 students; 10 outpatient clinical examination rooms; and 11 rooms for training in an inpatient/hospital setting.

T.O.: Can you talk about the cost? The quote in the news states $20.3 million.

Robinson: The estimated cost of the project is $20 million. This is for building construction and does not include projected costs for simulation-based training equipment, medical equipment, furniture and information technology components.

T.O.: Central Florida likes that the medical center will drive more visitors to Medical City in Lake Nona – what is your take on the reason? Is there any particular demographic and/or age bracket you will serve more than others?

Robinson: The number and demographics of staff trained annually will be dependent upon the VHA-wide clinical training requirements and number and scope of courses that are offered. Our students will be designated by their respective facilities to become instructors for specific courses to be delivered locally. Not all future courses have been defined at this time. In addition, because the facility is a train-the-trainer facility, the number of individuals trained VA-wide will be significantly greater than those trained in Orlando, as students become the teachers in their VA medical centers located throughout the nation.

T.O.: We anticipate the medical center to create more jobs (other than construction jobs) what workforce do you see supporting and do you have a number?

Robinson: Currently, there will be 35-40 full-time staff projected to provide training and support to the students.

T.O.: What is the purpose of the new facility and what are the goals the VA is trying to reach?

Robinson: SimLEARN will function as the national training center for clinical providers to increase their comfort and skill in high-risk procedures and in acquiring advanced or new procedural skills and techniques. The organization will serve as a hub supporting a network of facility simulation centers to improve clinical skills and Veteran patient outcomes. SimLEARN will conduct routinely scheduled courses that support training-the-trainers. Upon completion, these students are sufficiently prepared to serve as simulation subject matter experts for executing local training tailored to their respective facility’s needs. With over 150 VA medical centers across the country, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, this methodology for training distribution is effective and cost efficient in reaching over 150,000 health care providers.

T.O.: Talk about any state of the art technologies, leadership, training and any cross overs within industries.

Robinson: A great many of our acquisitions for simulation-based training equipment are items that are already commercially available. We are seeing significant advances in simulator fidelity and resolution that improve the credibility for creating a fully immersive training environment. The more “life like” characteristics in a training scenario, the better the experience will be for our students; both trainers and providers. Through the use of audio-visual recording for debriefings, we are seeing that training received is well supplemented. There are several applications and lessons learned from the use of Department of Defense (DOD) simulation programs that favorably apply within the clinical provider training domain.

T.O.: In regards to collaboration within Team Orlando, who are you working with and/or plan on working with once the facility is up and running?

Robinson: Within Team Orlando, we leveraged an Interagency Agreement (IAA) between VHA and US Army Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). A cross-organizational Integrated Product Team (IPT) from SimLEARN, VHA Employee Education System, and the MedSim project office at Program Manager – Combined Arms Tactical Training (PM – CATT) works together in life-cycle acquisitions of simulation-based training solutions, systems and equipment. We are also coordinating with other Team Orlando entities as a participant within the Federal Medical Simulation Training Consortium (FMSTC).

T.O.: Do you have any other closing thoughts or comments you would like to share?

Robinson: This is a very exciting time within VHA, Orlando and the medical community. I favorably compare this activation process to that of a pre-commissioning team of a first ship of its type. We’re already delivering train-the-trainer courses at our temporarily-leased office space. It’s very motivating to see the high levels of enthusiasm from our staff providing instruction, as well as from the future instructors excited to bring their newly acquired expertise home to share with their teammates. I believe the clinical training domain is quickly transitioning over the precipice for wide-scale use of simulation for training and evaluating competencies. Simulation has so much to offer to make great strides for training in a safe environment and improving clinical provider knowledge, skills and abilities.