Virtual Learning Lab Helps Train Medical Personnel

By Briana Vannozzi

These ER nurses are acting out a real life scenario — reviving a teen after an overdose. Everything about the scene is real. Everything except for the patient.

“We actually go through real life situations where hearts aren’t beating, people can’t breathe, babies in distress, so it is a real life scenario. It is what people will see when they’re on the floor providing care,” said Virtua Voorhees Hospital Chief Clinical Officer John Matsinger.

Matsinger is the chief clinical officer at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees, where cases play out in a simulated learning lab. Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff work side by side.

“We have a manager of the unit who is in a control room who is watching the entire scenario real time and depending on what the participants do, they’ll change the scenario real time on them,” Matsinger said.

The mannequins are surprisingly life like. They breathe, talk and have measured vital signs.

And here’s what makes this lab different from other simulated training programs — the room setup and the equipment are exactly what you’d find in a real life setting.

“Most people are hands-on learners so being able to practice the skills and the techniques they would normally use in real life here in a safe situation is just wonderful,” said Leslie Foran-Lee, RN and advanced clinical educator at Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

The lab hosts an emergency room, patient’s bedside and one class we didn’t get to see unfold — labor and delivery.

All training is recorded and viewed later in a debriefing to catch any mistakes and fine tune treatment. Nurses say it’s like the practice needed before the big game.

“Sometimes in a critical situation with a real patient it’s a little scary at first, and sometimes you’re the first person in there so you have to think quickly so this helps you learn right away what you’re supposed to be doing and it helps ease you into it I should say,” said Virtua Voorhees Hospital Nurse Jeanne Carey.

Labs like this can cost in the millions. Virtua relied on gifts from private donors to fund the operation. And they’re already looking forward with hopes to expand.