$4.6 Million Center for Real-World Med Teaching

Deb Tauber, left, and Julie Hughes conduct a training session March 25 at the University of Mobile. They’re observing nursing students in a simulated maternity exercise, with a robotic patient simulator playing the role of pregnant mother.

In the documentary “To Err is Human,” which tells the sometimes-terrifying story of how medical errors impact everyday lives, one doctor discusses the first time he ever inserted a chest tube into a patient.

The physician, now near retirement, says he was in his 20s, fresh out of medical school, at a rural hospital, trying to do a tricky and traumatic procedure — for the very first time — on a very real human being.

One-the-job medical training is far from optimal, he says. An estimated 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die each year in hospitals due to medical errors that could have been prevented, according to studies cited by the film.

The University of Mobile held several showings of the documentary in April at its campus to engage healthcare professionals and students on patient safety and introduce its new $4.6 million Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice. A central piece of the new center is high fidelity patient simulators that could have given the aforementioned doctor a chance to insert a chest tube incorrectly a few times, without hurting an actual person.

Modern nursing training sometimes utilizes actors to play the role of patients. A mock human patient, for instance, might express different levels of stress, anger or confusion as actual patients do, when an examination is under way. Robotic, computerized mannequins, meanwhile, can talk, breathe and bleed. They offer a learning safety net that gives specific feedback as nursing students do procedures on them.

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In a recent exercise, University of Mobile nursing students clustered around a robotic simulator in a childbirth setting. CAE Healthcare trainer Deb Tauber, watching from an observation room and using a computer hookup, voiced responses through the mannequin as the students assisted in the delivery.

School officials hope such training will reduce mortality related to preventable medical errors, which currently ranks at the No. 3 leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, according to one recent study.

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