SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The fact is, when one trains properly for real-world scenarios it can help lead to a successful outcome. This is something that is taken to heart within the Navy medical community.
"Train like you fight, fight like you train."
This is one quote that many can say they've heard throughout their Naval career.
In an effort to align training and fighting, Surface Warfare Medical Institute opened its first Simulation Laboratory (Sim Lab) with one simulator in a small room in October 2009. The main purpose for the Sim Lab was to provide a realistic type of training environment for students to safely practice medicine through repetition and hands-on practice. It also provided the capability to better train Independent Duty Corpsmen (IDC) students through the use of advanced technology. This provided the students with the same opportunity that is offered to students of civilian medical fields such as nursing and allied health professional training programs.
Positive reviews from the single over-utilized room allowed SWMI to expand the Sim Lab into three rooms with three new simulators in March 2010.
A few years after the introduction of the Sim Lab, a Virtual Reality (VR) room was built in December 2013. The VR rooms provided the same experience as the Sim Lab while enhancing simulated environments of the Middle East and onboard ships. Currently the VR rooms are used by instructors and students at SWMI and have the ability to add physical stressors to enhance the experience for the students. Smoke, dim lighting, changes in sound, background videos, and various props can be introduced to heighten the experience. This type of capability is designed to bridge the gap between practical scenarios and real world patient encounters.
"It's a controlled environment where students can get hands-on experience before they go out to the fleet," said Lt. Hope Moore, physician supervisor for trauma at SWMI.
"One of the most significant aids is the development of muscle memory, so that when it comes to treating an actual patient it's a much smoother process."
Muscle memory consolidates specific motor tasks into memory through repetition and many of the instructors believe that using the Sim Lab and VR room enrich classroom learning through hands-on practice. Students are able to practice procedures and scenarios in a safe and controlled environment as often as they need. This gives students the chance to practice before they are assessed on their abilities.
Students consider this a tangible way to put all that is taught in the classroom into practice.
"The Sim Lab and the VR room give you more exposure to different types of patient scenarios, which can help you feel more prepared for testing evolutions and some real-world patient encounters," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Devin Miller, an IDC student.
All of this could not be done without a very experienced team of three civilians responsible for operating, maintaining, and repairing all that is used in the Sim Lab and VR room.
Retired Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman George Frausto, the Sim Lab and VR room supervisor, has seen many students use both over the years. He has been here since the introduction of the Sim Lab. As a prior IDC and SWMI instructor, he has plenty of insight into what it takes to successfully complete IDC School.
"Typically, students who practice the most hours in the Sim Lab excel during their practical evolutions," said Frausto.
Civilian staff member and retired Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Tim George, another prior IDC and instructor at SWMI, and Erik Eustaquio, a prior Corpsman and SWMI staff member, round out the team that keeps the Sim Lab and VR room able to operate successfully. Their combined knowledge base and experience have continued to make the Sim Lab and VR room a roaring success.
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