By Gerald Sonnenberg, EES Marketing and Communication

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Simulation Learning, Education and Research Network (SimLEARN) National Simulation Center was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Sept. 16. Dr. Richard Stone, VA Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health, provided the keynote address.

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Distinguished visitors and VA staff officially opened the VHA SimLEARN National Simulation Center with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Sept. 16 in Orlando, Florida. (Pictured left to right) Dr. Lygia Arcaro, SimLEARN National Director for Nursing Programs; Louise Van Diepen, former VHA Employee Education System (EES) Chief Learning Officer; Stella Fiotes, Executive Director for VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management; Dr. Manny Dominguez, EES Deputy Chief Learning Officer; Wilson Ariza, SimLEARN Associate Director for Training; Florida Congressman Daniel Webster; Leslie Dubow, EES Associate Director for Educational Gaming; Dr. Richard Stone, VA Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health; Phil Hargreaves, SimLEARN Associate Director for the REdI program; Florida Congressman John Mica; Tim Liezert, Director of the Orlando VA Medical Center; Dr. Haru Okuda, SimLEARN National Medical Director; CAPT (Ret) Harry Robinson, SimLEARN National Program Manager. (VA photo by Gerald Sonnenberg)

After the event, attendees toured the facility and saw demonstration scenarios of the facility’s various capabilities. This included staff transferring a patient from an ambulance to an emergency room setting, an intensive care unit, and to a hospital room.

The center provides a high-technology environment to provide training to VHA staff. It also provides a variety of learning environments so clinicians and other staff train in the most realistic environment possible.

However, in contrast to the sophisticated technology, the goal of the new center is simple, according to its leadership.

“SimLEARN and the VHA National Simulation Center apply simulation-based training and technology to advance the skills of our clinical workforce, maximize teamwork and communication skills, increase access to care and, most importantly, improve Veteran health care outcomes and quality of care,” said Dr. Haru Okuda, SimLEARN national medical director. “The SimLEARN program is different than most simulation centers associated with academic medical centers throughout the country in that it provides interprofessional training, which includes doctors, nurses and associated health staff. And the focus is on training our workforce, and not specifically nursing and medical students or residents.”

The facility is located on the campus of the new Orlando VA Medical Center, located in Lake Nona’s Medical City, and provides a high-fidelity training environment by replicating actual patient treatment areas, including an outpatient clinic setting, as well as an inpatient/hospital setting.

Video recording of training takes place for classroom debriefing and review, and multipurpose classrooms have reconfigurable walls to provide a number of room settings. At least 10 classrooms accommodate up to 160 students. In addition, the facility includes six outpatient clinic rooms; three specialty procedure rooms; two operating rooms and cardiac catheterization labs; one emergency room and ambulance; one mental health room; three intensive care unit/community living center/medical surgery rooms; five debriefing rooms; one procedural trainer room; one computer room; one broadcast and video suite; four multipurpose rooms; and one innovation room.

“SimLEARN focuses on the ‘train the trainer’ concept,” said Dr. Harry Robinson, SimLEARN national program manager. “Representatives from VA medical centers nationwide will experience SimLEARN’s immersive, high-technology training to become instructors, and then take their knowledge and skill back to conduct local training; it’s a proven concept that is both effective and efficient.”

Classes at the facility began in July but new courses and classes are being scheduled now.

The location of the National Simulation Center, with its close proximity to other large clinical, educational and research facilities, provides enhanced opportunities for collaborations and research in new clinical simulation technologies and methods.

More information about SimLEARN training is available to employees here, and on the public website atwww.simlearn.va.gov.

Distinguished visitors and VA staff officially opened the VHA SimLEARN National Simulation Center with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Sept. 16 in Orlando, Florida. (Pictured left to right) Dr. Lygia Arcaro, SimLEARN National Director for Nursing Programs; Louise Van Diepen, former VHA Employee Education System (EES) Chief Learning Officer; Stella Fiotes, Executive Director for VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management; Dr. Manny Dominguez, EES Deputy Chief Learning Officer; Wilson Ariza, SimLEARN Associate Director for Training; Florida Congressman Daniel Webster; Leslie Dubow, EES Associate Director for Educational Gaming; Dr. Richard Stone, VA Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health; Phil Hargreaves, SimLEARN Associate Director for the REdI program; Florida Congressman John Mica; Tim Liezert, Director of the Orlando VA Medical Center; Dr. Haru Okuda, SimLEARN National Medical Director; CAPT (Ret) Harry Robinson, SimLEARN National Program Manager. (VA photo by Gerald Sonnenberg)