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Preparing for the next baby through the door

Stevens Community Medical Center health care professionals take part in a simulated pediatric emergency in the Kohl's Mobile Simulation Center earlier this spring. From left are Karen Long, LPN, Amanda Luthi, RN, Dr. Greg Abler and Chayla Ostby, RN.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Hospitals in rural areas are fortunate in that their staffs aren't used to seeing a large number of pediatric trauma cases.

But when emergency situations involving children do arise, a mobile simulation center might be part of what will save a life.

The Kohl's Mobile Simulation Center is a rolling testing center for physicians, nurses and other staffers who might find themselves dealing with medical emergencies.

The retooled Recreational Vehicle brings state-of-the-art training equipment and information about the newest techniques right into a hospital parking lot.

Sponsored by Kohl's, the simulation center is staffed by Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and stopped in Morris for training of Stevens Community Medical Center staff earlier this spring.

"There are very few places we go that have pediatric departments," said Karen Mathias, director of the program, now in its second year. "They're almost all family practice. Pediatrics is our specialty and what we bring in is that expertise."

The simulation center allows 16 hospital personnel to be trained in a day, and the center trains about 350 people per year. The RV travels the state the first and third weeks of the month from April to the first week of November, said Susan Forve, the simulation center's operations manager.

The simulation center makes about 21 or 22 stops at facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Forve said.

"It's more effective to bring the training to the professionals," Forve said. "Most of the hospitals don't have enough staff to send them off (to the Twin Cities) for training. We can train 16 people in a day. They can't send 16 people off for a day."

Physicians and nurses find a mock emergency room in the simulator, and computerized mannequins that are programmed to simulate a particular problem, such as an infant experiencing trouble breathing. The mannequins are designed to simulate children from newborns to teenagers.

Three cameras follow the simulation, and in a post-scenario debriefing, the staff then watches the simulation and identifies what went well and what needs improvement, Forve said.

"It's like in the aviation world, which uses simulators to recreate a real-world situation," she said. "With the three cameras, there's nothing that we don't see."

The center's staff asks hospital personnel if they have situations they want to work on. For example, the simulation center arrived at a rural hospital about a week after a school bus crash brought several children into the emergency room.

"They told us, 'We're so glad you're here,' " Forve said. "They really knew what they needed to know and what they needed to practice on because they had been through it the week before."

The simulation center staff stresses team work and communication, Forve said, noting that between 70 percent and 80 percent of the problems hospital staffs encounter boil down to miscommunication.

"It's not the skills," she said.

The simulation center is the first of its kind in the U.S. focusing on preparing medical staffs for potentially life-threatening situation involving children.

"We try to make the care safer and families safer," Forve said. "Most of the hospitals don't have emergencies that often. This is about getting people ready for that next baby or next ambulance that comes through the door."