Medicine Meets Theater
Pediatric medicine just took a step for the better in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area with a new, expanded pediatric Simulation (SIM) Center — a dedicated space where doctors, nurses and other staff can rehearse tough medical situations or practice tricky or rare procedures in a clinical setting that looks and feels real.
But clinicians aren’t the only ones who will be using the new 4,000-square-foot facility, which incorporates real medical equipment, set design and special effects. Families can get hands-on practice with medical equipment they’ll be using at home. Inventors and “hackers” can develop and test new devices or software platforms and see how they perform in a life-like clinical environment. Planned hacks, for example, will explore different medical and surgical applications for voice-activated and gesture-controlled devices.
“The SIM Center fuses medicine and theater with education and child life expertise to allow us to build tailored simulations,” says Peter Weinstock, MD, PhD, director of Boston Children’s Simulator Program (SIMPeds). Through set changes, the Center’s three main simulation rooms can convert to any kind of medical setting — say, a trauma bay, or a fully equipped operating room with a cooling system for cardiac surgery, where surgeons can scrub in with a view of the patient.
Simulations with patients and families
For the first time, family caregivers, too, can use the SIM Center to practice using medical equipment and gain confidence in handling care at home.
“Simulations can help parents prepare for hospital discharge, teach them to run a home ventilator or help children with behavioral conditions like autism anticipate hospital visits and medical procedures,” says Weinstock.
That’s where more set changes come in. This ambulatory exam room can convert to a nursery or a child’s bedroom for simulations involving parents and other home caregivers.
Behind the scenes
All SIM Center rooms — even the reception area and bathroom — are wired with microphones and cameras and connected to a large control room. Behind the scenes, technicians stage the simulations, cueing up sound effects and patient voices, changing readouts of vital signs and adding new “plot” twists to the clinical scenario.
Sometimes just a portion of a patient’s anatomy is needed for a simulation. Down the street from the SIM Center, the SIM InventorSpace houses an imaging room for converting data from patient scans for 3D printing and the 3D printers themselves. There’s also an engineering space, a special effects room and a space dedicated to device prototyping.
Anatomically accurate mannequins and trainers can be built to order by SIMPeds’ SIMEngineer division, incorporating 3D-printed anatomy, blood, lifelike hair and other features to up the level of realism.
“We are unique in staffing animatronics and special effects specialists in-house all within one program — even with a puppeteering room,” says Weinstock.