Improving Patient Care,
One Simulation At A Time

Medical student Keir Warner is shown bending over his “patient” in a simulation at the Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies lab.
Photo courtesy of ISIS

Here’s the scenario: there’s been a natural disaster. Your patient stops breathing. The code blue team is on their way, but you and a few other medical professionals have to act immediately. What do you do?

Students navigate acute-care simulations like this one — and other simulations that challenge and test their skills — while training in the Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS) lab at UW Medicine. Known for its leadership in the use of simulation technology to improve medical skills, ISIS also offers trainings that focus on interprofessional communication and collaboration. Through a new curriculum designed for novice learners, medical, nursing and pharmacy students work together to practice team communication in a variety of hands-on scenarios.

“ISIS provides a safe place for learning. You’re free to make mistakes and experiment,” says Keir Warner, a first-year student at the UW School of Medicine.

This interprofessional environment is a key part of medical education. According to the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, miscommunication accounts for 80 percent of medical errors. Training centers like ISIS reduce the potential for miscommunication among professionals, thus improving patient care.

The students at ISIS appreciate the opportunity to train together. Warner, part of a cardiac arrest simulation, says, “Everyone is empowered to speak up. It’s reassuring to know that others will cross-cover for you. For example, the nursing students will let you know if CPR is being done fast enough.”

Like Warner, Chelsea Howland, a first-year student at the UW School of Nursing, also values ISIS. A participant in an acute-care scenario involving a natural disaster, Howland was one of the nurses in charge of performing CPR on the “patient” and using the automated external defibrillator (AED).

“It was intimidating at first — I was one of the youngest people in the room,” says Howland. “But because it was a natural disaster scenario, everyone was caught off guard. It eliminated any sense of hierarchy between us. We had one common goal: resuscitating the patient.”

Both Warner and Howland think their training will have a positive impact on their work. “Now, I’m much more comfortable with the idea of communicating with everyone on the care team,” says Howland. “Developing these skills is vital to improving patient care in any setting.”

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