Health Sciences Simulation Center

We prepare students for a deeply serious endeavor: to save and improve lives. But, that doesn’t mean our students can’t have fun while learning.

Real-World Learning Through Simulation

Here, in one of the West’s most advanced healthcare simulation facilities, Samuel Merritt University (SMU) students, faculty, and working health professionals collaborate to respond to life-like scenarios, try on different hats, and become better health care team members. The Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC) is integrated into all of SMU’s programs on our three campuses. At SMU, we offer the full range of simulation experiences, and patient safety and positive patient outcomes are at the heart of everything we do.  We know what it takes to produce healthcare professionals who can be trusted with a life.  It takes practice, carefully guided, and lots of it.  Providing that practice - in technical skills, medical and surgical procedures, critical thinking, decision making, teamwork, leadership and communication - is what SMU's Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC) is all about.

Simulation Creates 

  • A model environment where patient safety is the priority
  • A direct connection between theory and practice
  • Hands-on experience making mistakes and learning from them
  • Dynamic interactions among team members, and between students and faculty
  • Immediate feedback to deepen and reinforce learning
  • Opportunities to embrace change, confront daunting challenges, celebrate experiences of learning and earn each other’s trust 
Society for Simulation Healthcare

The HSSC is accredited by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare

The HSSC Guiding Principles for Simulation-based Learning are:

  • People learn by actively engaging in an immersive, supportive, reflective and structured environment, and
  • Limitless possibilities exist to create an immersive learning environment.

What do we mean by immersive learning? Immersive is the sense of the learner that “I am in the learning experience and I am practicing doing the things that I need to do better.” (Pagano, 2013, p13).

For SMU students, this means that “I am making decisions about a patient’s/client’s care. I am leading a team of health care providers. I am operating a medical device. I am interviewing for a job. I am intubating a patient. I am practicing and I am getting real-time feedback and I am getting better.

There are many instructional approaches to immersive learning. The HSSC team specializes in designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating simulation-based learning (SBL), which can use computerized manikins (manikin-based simulation) and standardized patients.  Reflection and assessment are crucial parts of simulation-based education.  After completing sessions, participants debrief through discussion and review audio and video of scenarios.  This immediate feedback reinforces learning and allows students to safely learn from mistakes.

At all of SMU’s campuses, each HSSC clinical skills labs and simulation suite is equipped to implement and record any type of simulation technique, as well as support most methods of technology-enhanced teaching. In our Clinical Skills Labs you will use the same equipment as that at hospitals to practice tasks like inserting IVs, giving injections, performing a head to toe health assessment. Task trainers allow you to demonstrate your mastery of those specific skills.

Role-Play With Actors

The best preparation for the human side of health care is practice with real people. That is why SMU engages actors as Simulated/Standardized Patients (SP). An SP is trained to portray a patient in circumstances like those that might occur in a real clinical setting. In addition to the physical symptoms of a specific medical diagnosis, an SP is prepared to tell stories, express emotions, show stress, and exhibit attitudes toward the medical profession. The portrayal should be so convincing that even a skilled clinician might think the performance is real.

You’ll need a good memory, excellent communication skills, and a flexible schedule. The HSSC team will provide training.

Interested in acting as a Standardized Patient? Let us know. A member of the HSSC team will contact you.


Simulation-based learning enhances interprofessional practice and education (IPE) by immersing students in team-based scenarios in a realistic health care environment. The scenario is immediately followed by a guided debriefing with a faculty member trained in IPE and who leads the reflective discussion. Our educators work directly with IPE teams and with and academic faculty seeking to integrate IPE into the curriculum.  

Students and professionals from UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, along with Cal State East Bay, San Jose State, San Francisco State, and John F. Kennedy universities often interact in these IPE courses, further enriching the experience. 

More information on IPE at SMU


Our Mission:

The HSSC promotes immersive learning for health care professionals in an environment where simulation-based education is purposefully integrated into programs. Through a collaborative, interprofessional approach we provide opportunities to acquire knowledge based on best practices and to positively transform the experience of learning.

We Value:

  • An environment where we challenge ourselves and our students to think critically, seek mastery and act compassionately.
  • A collegial environment where we are fair, respectful and behave with integrity.
  • A collaborative environment where we partner with one another and with others in the community.
  • An innovative environment where we take reasoned risks and move nimbly.
  • A results-oriented environment where we provide and expect exceptional performance and service.

HSSC Guiding Principles:

  • Listening and collaborating is essential to our success.
  • Limitless possibilities exist to create an immersive learning environment.
  • People learn by actively engaging in an immersive, supportive, reflective and structured environment.
  • Learners include faculty, students, and healthcare professionals both internal and external to SMU.
  • Everyone is a lifelong learner.
  • All learners, faculty and staff are treated equitably and respectfully regardless of their backgrounds and identities in accordance with SMU’s Principles of Community.
  • There is personal responsibility for enhancing individual knowledge for teaching & learning practices.
  • We have an obligation to contribute to the body of knowledge of immersive learning through research and scholarly dissemination.

  • We are essential to successful Interprofessional Education at SMU.

  • We believe in the TeamSTEPPS approach to working as a team.

  • We emphasize human factors and patient safety in strengthening our core curriculum
  • We implement inter-professional scenarios that reflect real clinical situations, often using real cases as our models
  • We support SMU’s faculty members as they integrate simulation into SMU’s curriculum in all disciplines
  • We support the goal of simulation-based learning methodologies as SMU’s primary paradigm for demonstrating educational effectiveness
  • We develop structured courses on crisis resource management for targeted groups of community health professionals and all SMU students
  • We provide regional leadership and participate in regional training. 

The HSSC is central to the work of SMU’s Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL), which fosters collaborative learning to improve teaching practice. Online, hybrid, and face-to-face faculty workshops at the HSSC include: integrating simulation into the curriculum, developing and implementing new simulation experiences for students, utilizing standardized patients, and best practices for debriefing students after scenarios.

The HSSC is an Authorized Training Center for the American Heart Association (AHA), and offers regularly scheduled AHA courses through CIEL (Health Sciences Simulation Center expandable menu).

Comprehensive apprenticeship programs at the HSSC include those for Simulation Educator and Simulation Technology Specialist. Both apprenticeships use simulation-based learning and are competency based. More about the HSSC Apprenticeship Programs (Health Sciences Simulation Center expandable menu).


We Embrace Hands-On Learning

See for yourself. Take a tour of the Health Science Simulation Center.

Virtual Tour

Inside the Simulation Center

Explore our state-of-the art learning facility.

Recent News

Rachel True (she/her), MPH

Operations Manager, Instructor

Celeste Villanueva (she/her), EdD, CRNA, FNAP

Founding Director, Assistant Academic Vice President, Interim Dean School of Nursing

Kevin Reilly (he/they), MSN

Simulation Educator, Assistant Professor

Caleb Jacobs (he/him), MSN, CHSE

Simulation Educator (Sacramento Campus)

Christina Rey (she/her), PhD, MSN

Simulation Educator (San Francisco Peninsula Campus)

Carlos Joy (he/him), BA

Simulation Technology Specialist

Chris Mendez, BA (he/him)

Simulation Technology Specialist (Sacramento Campus)

Lauren O’Niell (they/them), BA, CHOS

Simulation Technology Specialist

Sierra Marcum-Gonzales (she/her), BA

HSSC Services Coordinator

Ben Avalos (he/him)

Simulation Technology Specialist

Gregson Fortaleza (he/him), BS

Simulation Technology Specialist