Tuesday was a day of firsts for Tiffany Kuo. "It's exciting!" she beamed.
The University of Vermont medical student was preparing to start her first IV. "I've been looking forward to doing this," she said.
But Kuo was not too nervous. Her patient was a plastic and rubber arm; part of a new center Kuo was using for the first time.
"It's a great space, a great facility," said Dr. William Raszka, a pediatrician at Fletcher Allen Health Care, and Kuo's teacher.
Fletcher Allen and UVM's Clinical Simulation Lab is 9,000 square feet of teaching space with fully-functioning hospital rooms and high-tech mannequins that simulate just about any disease or injury imaginable. It also has hands-on labs for skill-building, and even a virtual reality trainer that doctors say improves on old teaching methods.
"When I was a resident, many years ago," Raszka said, "I practiced on babies. Beautiful little babies. And now, medical students are practicing on models, so when they see their first beautiful little baby, they have a better idea of what's going on, and it's less likely they're going to hurt them and more likely they're going to do something good for that infant."
On top of training future doctors and nurses, the new facility says it's open to all Vermont medical professionals, Including EMTs and Vt. National Guard medics. The show can also be taken on the road to physicians' offices around the state. "This is for everybody and we're very proud of the facility we've generated here," said Bill Jeffries, UVM's senior associate dean for medical education.
Students have been using simulators for a while. Many were purchased with a $1.75 million grant obtained with the help of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. But the medical school didn't have a place to house the tools until it turned UVM's old TV studio into the new lab.
The late Doctor Thomas Sullivan made a big gift that covered some of center's $4 million total price tag. The radiologist at Mt. Ascutney Hospital in Windsor and at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was a graduate of UVM's medical school. Sullivan will be honored Wednesday at the lab's grand opening.
Staff at the simulation lab called top-of-the-line training part of the prescription for better health care. "The primary concern we have is patient safety," Jeffries said.
Now, Tiffany Kuo has a better sense of how to keep her patient comfortable when she runs an IV line for real. "I hope to get more of it!" she said.