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St. Luke’s Simulation Center Uses Innovation to Help Learners Hone Skills

By Colin McEvoy on March 3, 2022

Megan Augustine, Director of the St. Luke’s Simulation Center, gives LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham a tour of the St. Luke’s Simulation Center and 3D Print Innovation Lab.

Health care professionals and students have long used simulated settings to practice medical procedures and hone their skills. But the St. Luke’s University Health Network is using innovation and state-of-the-art technology to take those simulations to a whole new level.

The St. Luke’s Simulation Center and 3D Print Innovation Lab utilizes 3-D printing, virtual anatomy and surgical skills laboratories, life-sized human patient simulators, and more to provide a setting where learners of all levels can practice their hands-on skills in a realistic and safe environment.

“At the end of the day, we provide a safe, non-threatening learning environment,” said Megan Augustine, Director of the St. Luke’s Simulation Center. “Mistakes and failures here are OK because we constantly look for and ask what can be done better and differently to improve skills and gain confidence. Then when they work with patients in our community, the result is better patient outcomes and satisfaction.”

Based in four physical locations within the Lehigh Valley, the Simulation Center has a 3D print and innovation lab that allows for the creation of anatomical models of human limbs and organs, as well as customized education tools and medical devices.

The St. Luke’s Simulation Center and 3D Print Innovation Lab includes a six-foot digital anatomy table.

The center also features a six-foot anatomy table where users can freshen up on basic anatomy, practice dissections or interact with living anatomy and physiology on digital bodies.

“This isn’t meant to replace a cadaver lab; there is something to be said about holding an organ in your hands,” Augustine said. “But here you can try things, experiment, make mistakes, and if you want to take it back, you can hit the ‘undo’ button and do it again.”

Additionally, the Simulation Center’s high-fidelity simulators can breathe, sweat, cry, heart sounds, lungs sounds, and even deliver a baby, allowing for clinical procedures to be done in a realistic setting with no risk of harming actual human patients.

The St. Luke’s Simulation Center is based in two locations at the health network’s Bethlehem campus at Fountain Hill, as well as one location each at its Anderson and Sacred Heart campuses.

The network also has a 34-foot-long customized Freightliner M2 truck that serves as a mobile simulation center, which can bring simulation training sessions to network campuses and remote sites, and even be converted into a live treatment center in the case of an emergency.

The St. Luke’s Simulation Center trained nearly 4,500 staff members when it first opened in 2014. Having seen significant growth and technology upgrades since that time, the center trained more than 15,000 users in 2021, Augustine said.

The center aims to educate learners of all levels on medical and clinical scenarios and procedures, allowing them to learn new skills and brushing up on old skills, as well as experience scenarios or treat ailments they might not otherwise see on a day-to-day basis.

The center’s 3-D printing technology allows them to replicate a body part or organ from a patient’s CTE scan within about a month. They serve a wide variety of uses, such as human hands with simulated chemical burns, lower backs to simulate a spinal tap, and jawlines with balloons at the bottom to test and simulate lungs.

In addition to printing anatomical models and medical devices for their own network, St. Luke’s has used this technology for orders across the Lehigh Valley. For example, it recently provided injection and suture pads for a local school district’s biology symposium, Augustine said.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey visited the St. Luke’s Simulation Center last summer, and the health network and ASR Media Productions won a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award in 2020 for an episode of their show St. Luke’s HealthNow focused on the Network’s Simulation Center.

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