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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014


West Penn Allegheny Health System STAR Center Receives Grant to Expand Programs in Surgical Simulation and Emergency Medical Services

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

The West Penn Hospital Foundation announced today that the Richard King Mellon Foundation has awarded the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) Simulation Teaching and Academic Research (STAR) Center, a $350,000 grant to expand its educational programs in surgical simulation and emergency medical services.

"This generous grant enables the STAR Center to continue to meet our core mission of creating a state-of-the-art simulation center for interdisciplinary training. We will now be able to incorporate more surgical and EMS courses into our program to further enhance the delivery of high quality and efficient patient-centered care,” said Donamarie N-Wilfong, DNP, RN, Director of Clinical Education at the STAR Center.

STAR is a virtual hospital that reflects the patient and family experience from admission to discharge. Simulators mimic the physiology of humans (blood pressure, heart rate, breath sounds, etc.) and can be programmed for a wide range of symptoms/health conditions. STAR students use simulated patients and individual task trainers to learn and practice clinical skills in a risk-free environment prior to performance on real patients.

“A benefit of simulation is that rare or difficult events can be rehearsed so that learners can become competent before actual patient contact and proficient in treating even rare conditions that might be life- threatening,” Wilfong said.

STAR participants include nursing students, allied healthcare students, residents, practicing clinicians, researchers, emergency medical technicians, ancillary personnel and the community. STAR is internationally accredited by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

The expansion of STAR’s services made possible by the RK Mellon grant has two components:

1. Surgical Simulation Center

Nationally, one in ten hospital inpatients is likely to suffer an adverse event as a result of hospitalization - and not the disease process itself. Between a third and half of these events are considered preventable. The 1999 Institute of Medicine report “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System” concluded that the majority of medical errors are caused by faulty systems, processes, and conditions that lead people to make mistakes or fail to prevent them.

STAR will develop a simulated surgical center/operating room (OR)to provide training for surgical specialists, residents and the surgical team, including laparoscopy and robotic surgery. The simulated surgical center/OR will be a multi-functional learning center to promote and enhance patient safety and quality and enable training and assessment of technical and non-technical skills of the entire surgical team. Our goal is to eliminate or reduce the incidence of medical errors before, during and after surgery.

2. Simulation Training for Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Providers

The role of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers is becoming more diverse with broader clinical decision-making responsibilities. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics have become more advanced in their treatment regimen and as a result, there is a strong and ongoing need for continuing education.

West Penn Allegheny Health System’s PreHospital Services program provides medical direction and education to EMS providers throughout the tri-state area. This grant will bring the expertise of the PreHospital Service and STAR teams together to provide simulation training for pre-hospital providers at all levels. Students will be able to practice rare but critical events including those seen in adult emergencies, pediatric resuscitations and obstetrical emergencies.

STAR’s mobile simulated ambulance provides realistic, life-like training that can be driven to the EMS agencies for on-site training. The simulated ambulance is retro-fitted with video cameras, wireless simulation technology and standard ambulance equipment that enables the team to take EMS training on the road. The grant will provide simulation equipment that can be used to provide EMS training at STAR’s West Penn Hospital facility and in the field.


Editors Note: Those interested in learning more about the programs of West Penn Allegheny’s STAR Center can contact STAR at 412-578-4470 or visit STAR online at www.wpahs.org/STAR.

For more information, contact:
West Penn Allegheny Health System
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