SMU Expands Simulation Center in Response to Growing Demand for Innovative Healthcare Professional Education

Samuel Merritt University

(OAKLAND, Calif., September 27, 2010)  Samuel Merritt University (SMU) in Oakland, California has expanded its simulation training by opening a second center.  With more than 5,000 square feet of additional space, the Health Sciences Simulation Center South, or HSSC South, allows students from all disciplines to acquire a variety of skills through multi-modality instruction.  The new South Center will enable the University to significantly enhance the educational opportunities available to the students in its nursing, occupational and physical therapy, physician assistant and podiatric medicine programs.

With the growing enrollment numbers at SMU, space to provide more simulation-based training for students long has been a part of the institution's strategic plan. "Samuel Merritt University is becoming a nationally recognized institution that incorporates innovative, state-of-the art patient simulation as part of academic curricula," said Jeanette Wong, MPA, RN, HSSC Operations Manager.  "We knew it was a matter of time before we had to expand the HSSC on the Oakland campus, and I'm really happy the second center is finally open to accommodate the growing need."

The space, located in the SMU Peralta Pavilion Building, is in close proximity to the original HSSC that first opened in October 2006.  The most exciting feature of HSSC South is its nine standardized patient (SP) exam rooms, each of which will be equipped with state-of-the-art audio video equipment.  Standardized patients are actors who have been trained to portray a patient with a specific medical condition, with whom students interact to demonstrate their proficiency with clinical and interpersonal skills, particularly the ability to effectively communicate.  "By increasing our SP program our students can be taught assessment and treatment techniques in a standardized fashion.  Moreover, they will be able to practice their communication skills by obtaining full medical histories and completing full physical exams, discussing health concerns with the patients, and determining important risk assessments on a diverse population of simulated patients," Wong said.  "Participating in such advanced simulations will help students as they begin to work with real-life patients, especially those with complex clinical profiles."

The new simulation facility also has two large simulation suites - similar to those in the original section of the simulation center - and is equipped with an inventory of advanced simulation manikins that can mimic scores of abnormal medical conditions.  Currently, the HSSC houses four SimMan® simulators, three VitalSim™ manikins, a SimBaby® and a SimNewB® all manufactured by Laerdal.  In addition, the HSSC has a Noelle™, a pregnant simulator, and her fetus/neonate "Hal" manufactured by Gaumard.  "Harvey," is a sophisticaed cardiopulmonary patient simulator who offers opportunities for students to auscultate vast range of very realistic heart and breath sounds.

The HSSC faculty, as well as many of the faculty members of the SMU Program of Nurse Anesthesia, have developed high levels of expertise in the applications of mannequin-based simulation and thus can take full advantage of the expanded areas of the simulation center.  "Our nurse anesthesia faculty are also rapidly developing expertise in the SP format of simulation, a teaching methodology that will greatly enhance the development of student nurse anesthetist's skills in the area of advanced health assessment, preoperative risk assessment, and assessment for manifestations of postoperative complications," said Celeste Villanueva, CRNA, MS, HSSC Director & Director of the SMU Program of Nurse Anesthesia.  "Add this to our established and reputable track record of full integration of patient simulation with manikins throughout our curriculum, putting us on the forefront of innovative nurse anesthesia education, championing patient safety initiatives."

The vision of faculty across all programs at SMU is for students to learn to work in multidisciplinary teams that parallel the healthcare practices they will join in hospitals, clinics and other fieldwork.  Villanueva adds that the entire HSSC (both North and South wings) will not only be used by students from all disciplines, but by faculty and healthcare professionals of all disciplines in the community as well. 

The HSSC has been recognized as a Center of Educational Excellence (COEE) by Laerdal Medical Corporation for demonstrating excellence in educational philosophy and programs, simulation methodology, programs in life saving medicine, multidimensional learning strategies, basic clinical skills excellence, community outreach, and curriculum development and integration.  The Center was also recently selected as the site for a recent national summit sponsored by Education Management Solutions, Inc. for advanced simulation users, focused on the use of audio-video systems and software to implement best practices in simulation-based education.

Since 1909, Samuel Merritt University, located on 'Pill Hill' in Oakland, California, has been educating health science practitioners who are committed to making a positive difference in diverse communities.  Nearly 1,400 students are enrolled at SMU, with campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Mateo.  The University offers an undergraduate degree in nursing; master's degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant; and doctoral degrees in physical therapy and podiatric medicine.  For more information visit

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