A mobile simulation unit where health care providers, particularly those in outlying areas of Northeast Georgia Health System’s service area, can be taught life-saving techniques should hit the road in about a year.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Dr. Michael Appel, chief patient safety officer for the Gainesville-based system. “We think it’s going to really improve the quality and safety of care in our region. Having it happening sooner rather than later is just fantastic.”
Hospital officials ordered the unit one day after an Oct. 4 golf tournament helped the health system reach a $700,000 fundraising goal.
The hospital has a stationary simulation unit already at Lanier Park off White Sulphur Road, but the mobile unit can be taken throughout the health system’s 18-county service area to provide much-needed training.
“The doctors in some of the rural counties are (in some cases) one-man shops,” said Chris Bray, president and chief development officer at The Medical Center Foundation. “They are small offices, and so it’s harder for them to get away to do some training.
“This is going to bring high-tech equipment training right to their front door … and whenever they need it.”
The health system already has simulation mannequins and other equipment that would fill the mobile unit.
“That’s kind of like the software,” Appel said.
The “hardware” is basically the mobile unit, which be built using a 40-foot Freightliner truck chassis. The unit will feature different rooms, which can be mocked up to resemble medical procedure areas, such as an operating room or the back of an ambulance.
The unit will be manufactured by LifeLine Mobile, based out of Columbus, Ohio.
“The types of workers we already have earmarked (for training) are (first responders) in the outlying areas,” Appel said. “Those are types of people who may not have the opportunity historically to participate in simulation, but also are people who have been identified as likely to benefit from simulation.”
Basically, the unit will “raise the bar for staff training,” according to a NGHS website about the initiative.
“It will provide training in the field for people who live kind of remotely, away from the big city centers, to have well-trained doctors, to at least stabilize (patients) to get them to bigger (hospitals),” Bray said.
“But also, we could bring (the unit) to (Northeast Georgia Medical Center) Braselton and do (simulation exercises) in the parking lot.”
For any provider, the units “is just like pilot training,” Bray said. “If you’re going to crash a plane, the best place to do it is in a simulation center. Then, you go back and learn from your mistakes. It puts (health care providers) in almost real-life situations.”
The unit will be the first of its kind in Georgia, according to the Georgia Hospital Association.
It “will help improve health care by better training medical professionals in realistic experiences, enabling them to prepare for emergency and life-threatening situations,” said Ethan James, executive vice president of external affairs in an email.
“Because it will provide training related to key areas of need as identified in NGHS’s community health needs assessment, including heart attack, stroke and infant mortality, it will be a major benefit to many communities,” he said.
The health system also expects to open up the unit to nursing schools.
The system’s Learning Lab at Lanier Park opened in September, allowing prenursing students at Brenau University in Gainesville to continue their studies uninterrupted after residual water damage locked them out of classrooms at the Featherbone Communiversity for a short time in September.
Christina Van Den Handel, clinical simulation coordinator for the Northeast Georgia Health System, said at the time whether it’s students or registered nurses, the learning lab provides an opportunity for continuing education.
For example, the facility has simulation equipment to train nurses and students in how to manage patients in an intensive care unit where they may have to resuscitate a mannequin, or in a neonatal intensive care unit helping deliver a mock newborn baby.
“The bottom line for us is the patients and the community,” Van Den Handel said. “So any way we can intersect the educational and enhance that development (of nurses) is always what we try to accomplish.”