WSU Opens Renovated Simulation Center

Amy Hendricks

It looks and sounds like a hospital. Nurses and respiratory therapists tend to patients — one needs intubation, another IV medication. EKG machines beep and ventilators whoosh. It’s not a hospital, however. It’s Weber State University’s newly renovated Annie Taylor Dee Simulation Center. Although the patients aren’t real — they’re high-tech mannequins — they teach students how to react and perform in a lifelike environment.

While students in the Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions have had access to a simulation laboratory since 2007, this extensive renovation gives them opportunities to work on upgraded, highly advanced mannequins in a setting that more closely resembles a major medical center. The center also provides students with a safe, controlled environment in which to learn and make mistakes without risking patient safety.  

The improvements to the simulation lab took it from a 10-bed, open-room setting with 10 standard mannequins to a suite that features:

  • Five individual simulation rooms equipped with five technologically sophisticated mannequins. Students can ventilate the patients, measure the blood pressure inside veins, heart and arteries, check pulses, watch pupils for dilation, observe laryngeal spasms and perform other medical procedures. One of the simulation rooms mimics a home-health setting.
  • Five large televisions allow professors to write on screens, then save and send the information to students. One of the televisions has 3D capability, which will give students from the radiology department opportunities to view x-rays and 3D imaging. 
  • A nurse practitioner suite with five rooms, each furnished with specific equipment for pelvic, orthopedic, ear/nose/throat, cardiovascular, pulmonary and metabolic procedures. Using detailed task trainers, students can practice sutures, nerve blocks, incisions and diagnosis.
  • A three-bed lab where students can practice skills outside of class.
  • Audio and visual feed throughout, giving professors the ability to observe students, alter patient scenarios and symptoms, and give immediate feedback.
  • Two debriefing rooms.

Chris Andrew, a first-year nursing student, and Kamiah Lansing, a second-year respiratory therapy student, tout the benefits of simulation learning.

“I’m very much a hands-on learner,” Andrew said. “The training and practice I’ll get in the Dee Simulation Center will help me get a better feel for what it will be like in real life, and will help me feel a lot more comfortable going into a clinical setting.”

Lansing said, “I love how the Dee Simulation Center looks exactly like a hospital. I love that we have real equipment to work on and that the mannequins are so real. You can listen for abnormal breath sounds, like wheezing, which teaches us how to respond and perform in an actual setting. It allows us to make mistakes without harming a patient; that’s an incredible tool to have.”

The updated Dee Simulation Center also allows for interdisciplinary teamwork among nursing, respiratory therapy, emergency care and rescue, and radiologic sciences students.

“Interdisciplinary team work, or inter-professional education, is extremely important as we look at the future of health care,” said Susan Thornock, chair of WSU’s School of Nursing. “It’s critical that health care professionals work as a team to ensure patients’ needs are met. “Now, we have this incredible facility that allows us to bring the disciplines with the Dumke College together in very specific scenarios created to involve all of them in patient care.”

The renovations were made possible by the Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation and WSU’s Office of the Provost. The center’s namesake, Annie Taylor Dee, helped establish Ogden’s Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in the early 1900s. The hospital featured the Dee School of Nursing, which became affiliated with Weber College in 1932.

“What a great asset this is and will be for our college,” Thornock said. “This center wasn’t just built for today; it was built for tomorrow and even five and 10 years down the road. It was built to adapt, so we can continually improve learning and help us fulfill our promise of educating the best nurses in the state of Utah.”