The History of Simulation at Samuel Merritt University

For centuries, healthcare professionals trained in the same way. They listened to lectures, read books, wrote papers, listened to one another’s heart beat and eventually practiced on real patients. Feedback was mostly anecdotal and, with experienced preceptors in short supply, regrettably limited.

Simulation eliminated the risk. Long popular with pilots and soldiers, simulation was slow to evolve in healthcare because of the complexities of the human body. Now technology has made realistic and meaningful simulation possible.

Here's how simulation has become the centerpiece of immersive learning at Samuel Merritt University (SMU).


  • The anesthesia profession begins introducing simulation to medical education and practice.
  • A landmark report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of human error. Healthcare educators respond with a renewed commitment to best practices. The IOM report clearly identifies simulation as one solution to addressing human errors and patient safety. (Read the IOM report).


  • Samuel Merritt University (SMU) (then Samuel Merritt College or SMC) declares in its strategic plan an intent to expand its use of instructional technologies and innovative teaching techniques and to develop its faculty’s capacity to use them.
  • SMC plays host to a demonstration of the Laerdal SimMan® instructional manikin for a group of Bay Area healthcare professionals, primarily anesthesia providers. This event brings broader attention to simulation and attracts more early adopters.


  • SMC purchases its first SimMan®, specifically for the use of the Program of Nurse Anesthesia(PNA).
  • Between 2001 and 2003, the PNA’s use of manikin- based simulation expands incrementally but is hampered by a lack of assigned space and a shortage of faculty trained in simulation.


  • An unoccupied perioperative suite in the Providence Pavilion of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center becomes available on the SMC campus for the PNA to utilize. This accelerates the program’s use of simulation. By late 2004, the program is routinely using SimMan® in its curriculum.
  • SMC’s Maternity Nursing Program (MN) adopts a simulation methodology for its pre-licensure students. The PNA and MN programs become the models for other programs/courses as their faculty become more proficient with simulation methodologies.

2005 — Winter

  • SMC is one of seven academic institutions and hospitals under consideration by the (Bay Area Simulation Collaborative (BASC) as a potential regional simulation center for BASC faculty development initiatives.
  • SMC receives $1 million in philanthropic funding from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, based on strong evidence of the College’s rapidly accelerating expertise in simulation.
  • The SMC Board of Trustees approves the construction of a dedicated simulation center on SMC’s Oakland campus. The Valley Foundation gift and the BASC nomination heavily influence the board decision.

2005 — Summer

Construction Project Team

The 2006 Construction Project Team for SMU's HSSC.

  • A construction project team is assembled. It includes architects, contractors, product vendors, engineers and SMC administrators, facility managers, faculty members, and experts in information technology and audio visual arts.


The IT and AV Team for SMU's HSSC.

IT and AV Team

  • January. Construction begins in existing space on the ground floor of the Peralta Pavilion on the campus of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
  • March through October. SMC initiates a collaboration with designers and engineers from two key vendors: Laerdal and Education Management Solutions (EMS). Their specific focus is the integration of EMS’ Arcadia software package Total Sim™ with the software for Laerdal’s SimMan® manikins. The HSSC simulation staff provides continuous feedback on the evolving technology.
  • Air and Vacuum Team

    Engineering Team and Project Foreman for SMU's HSSC.

    October. Installation and deployment of the final version of the technology is completed. An Open House for SMC students, faculty and staff takes place on October 24, 2006. The nine-month turnaround from start of construction to full deployment is considered short, reflecting SMC’s commitment to innovation.

  • November. More than 200 guests attend the grand opening of the Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC) on November 6, 2006.


  • BASC designates the HSSC as a Regional Simulation Center.
  • The HSSC receives funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for a new staff position: simulation coordinator for Nursing. The Moore Foundation had provided the initial funding that created BASC.


  • The HSSC is designated a Center of Excellence by the Laerdal Corporation.
  • The HSSC is designated as a center to conduct the BASC Apprentice Simulation Curriculum Training.


  • Planning begins on Phase II of the Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC South). This will add another 5,000 square feet of space for simulation-based learning opportunities.
  • Samuel Merritt College becomes Samuel Merritt University.


  • Construction is completed on the HSSC South, which includes nine standardized patient suites, four of which can be converted into two simulation suites.
  • The Health Sciences Simulation Center hosts the Third Annual Arcadia Summit, an international simulation conference sponsored by Educational Management Solutions, a corporate partner of the HSSC.



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