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Welcome to the Simulation Center (SIM Lab) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), an educational and training resource where the unreal can take on a virtual life all its own.

In the high-tech center, there are realistic manikins with IVs, life-like organs and simulated skin offering a variety of training, ranging from but not limited to, Emergency Medical Technician programs, suture, and set-up and sterile technique.

Although the SIM Lab held its grand opening in January 2013 at WRNMMC, it actually traces its roots back 14 years ago to 2000 at the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences (USU), then in 2007 at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center and in 2011 at the former National Naval Medical Center.

Using life-like prosthetics, simulated veins pump simulated blood through virtual reality task trainers so students can get a hands-on experience of what it would be like to care for an actual human.

The high-fidelity manikins act as another learning tool in the SIM Lab. Different from those in-store display manikins, the SIM Lab’s manikins are specifically designed for education and teaching and are completely anatomically correct.

“The Simulation Center is a tool that is used by a wide variety of programs to optimize teaching for their learners and staff. We are the hospital’s education center,” explained Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeffrey Mikita, chief of the Department of Simulation.

The lab also uses actors trained to play the role of a specific patient, and is part of the National Capital Region (NCR) Simulation Consortium, which includes the Uniformed Services University and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Simulation Centers.

“We provide multifaceted learning and training experiences to the full continuum of health care professionals in the NCR and beyond,” Mikita added.

Navy Hospitalman 2nd Class Rachel Stone, an administrative support specialist for the Department of Strategic Communications, recently used the SIM Lab for training.

“I know when I came from Corps ‘A’ School, I was nervous about having real patient interaction,” Stone said. “I feel like the simulation lab creates a suitable environment that can challenge the nervous learner and reinforce specific skill sets needed for true patient interaction.”

One of the interactive classes Stone attended was the suture training in which students used life-like skin molds with lacerations for suturing.

“We had a great instructor that taught us the basics and then moved us up to more advanced techniques,” Stone said.

Some of the techniques practiced were proper handling of the surgical tools while hand tying a square knot, and a surgeons knot, she added.

According to Stone another aspect of the SIM Lab is people can reserve a classroom and share their knowledge of what they learned in the facility.

Stone, who hosted an IV training for three junior corpsmen, continued, “This is also a great place for people to teach things that they have learned down range to others. There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to deploying, and I think the simulation lab should be used more frequently by people that are first time deployers. I would love to come and answer any questions that first time deployers had to make them feel more comfortable with the experience they are about to witness.”

The IV training was designed to give the corpsmen and medics practice on a simulated real-life vein by placing tourniquets for vein access, and how to hold, insert and remove a needle. Also, students learned how to prepare an IV line, and what they should look for after the IV is placed to make sure it is in the vein, stated stone

“Nothing will be able to replace the feeling of real flesh other than real flesh, but I think the simulation lab does a great job on providing realistic models and environments to the enlisted and officers,” Stone said.

Mikita explained the SIM Lab is beneficial to the military because, “There is a substantial amount of evidence that simulation training can save money as well as improve care. One of the direct benefits of improved care is that it saves the medical system money by reducing the amount of care necessary.”

To reserve space in the lab or to sign up for a class at the Simulation Center, go to: http://www.jotform.co/form/32883893894880.