South Florida Hospital News
Thursday February 27, 2020

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May 2019 - Volume 15 - Issue 11




FIU’s STAR Center … Immersive Simulation Training Clinical Skills and Critical Thinking

Nursing education has come a long way from the prototype Resusci-Annie used in early CPR training, but that was the beginning of Clinical Assistant Professor Henry Henao’s interests in blending technology with health care education and training.

As an EMT he grew up (career-wise) in the mid 80’s and appreciated the hands-on ‘feel’ of the CPR manakins. He moved on to other career opportunities but returned to health care, inspired by 9/11 heroics of first responders. He earned his BSN, MSN nursing degrees and is a PhD candidate. He was motivated toward forward thinking about challenges for the future. Now, Director of the Simulation Teaching and Research Center (STAR) at Florida International University (FIU), he oversees an immersive experience in a variety of hospital settings and training scenarios for future nurses and other health care professionals.
The STAR Center was recently recognized as South Florida’s only fully accredited simulation education facility to give students real-world practice with patient care - without real world consequences, through technology.
 The 20,000 sq. foot STAR Center at the FIU Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, provides multimodal settings including emergency, pediatric, med-surg and obstetrical opportunities in hospital, ambulatory and family settings. Students practice with high-fidelity lifelike patient responses amplified with mixed reality learning lenses, robotics and other augmented reality techniques for first response to surgical and rehabilitation protocols. However, while the advanced ‘bells and whistles’ are incredibly impressive, they are the tools that the faculty uses to help tease out the advanced clinical thinking that prepares an exceptional practitioner.
In addition to overseeing clinical expertise via technology, faculty provide students with monitoring, video capture and intensive debriefing to review, evaluate and discuss outcomes of clinical simulations.
According to Henao, facilitators help students to suspend disbelief. “Communications are important in setting up emotionally raw background scenarios so that the education goes beyond the technical skills and theatrical remedies into identifying the clinical reasoning to unfold the rationale as to why an approach was utilized in terms of patient safety, family interactions and other psychological impact factors,” he explained.
For example, in mental health scenarios actors are specifically trained to present a variety of psychiatric disease markers to help students identify subtle changes in mood behavior and learn how to approach agitated and suicidal patients in a real-world likeness while interacting with family and displaying empathy.
This enlightened real-world thinking was envisioned beginning in 2008 when FIU Administration supported an investment in space and dollars and staff for simulation education. This forethought is threaded throughout Florida International University health care education which strives to provide the bridge from academic concepts to contemporary practice encouraging faculty to share current strategies and on-the-job tactics in classroom and experiential industry residencies.
Recently the STAR Center participated in a showcase of faculty innovations designed for student success.
“Experiential learning supports traditional academic lectures, by using that knowledge to hone skills in small clinical control groups. This post-book-learning skills application helps students explore the thinking behind their appropriate clinical response,” Henao explained.
The STAR Center was also included in a landmark study published in nursing journals analyzing hybrid simulation and OTJ observations. The study indicated that up to 50% of simulation training improves clinical observation practicums for new nursing students. Henao favors a hybrid of simulation and clinical internships to optimize nursing aptitude and marketability of FIU students. FIU has received positive feedback from CNOs who acknowledge a deeper understanding and readiness for nursing care along with enhanced confidence of FIU students who graduate with this immersive simulation education.
“Nurses are the 24/7 eyes and ears for their health care colleagues; and, having a safe experience in a simulated environment that mimics the actual uncontrolled circumstances of patient care integrates evidenced-based practice and hands-on exposure,” Henao said.
Beyond nursing education, the STAR Center provides mobile and in-situ training including disaster response, aeromedical evacuation for the FIU Florida Advanced Surgical Transport (FIU-FAST) team and education to providers at their place of work for certification, continuing education or professional advancement purposes.
Henao credits the recent accreditation as acknowledgement of FIU’s early adapter lead and current maturity in simulation innovation but doesn’t want to stagnate. “We now share our knowledge with partners in industry who manufacture the robotic technology to help them design patient responses to the pinnacle of quality which enhances patient care education in the future,” he said.

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