Inside VA is a program office that looks like it came from the future: The Simulation Learning, Evaluation, Assessment and Research Network (SimLEARN). Its mission is to maximize the quality of care Veterans receive at our medical facilities nationwide.

SimLEARN uses simulation-based learning to increase clinical capabilities and improve patient outcomes across VA.

“It provides a safe learning environment where a clinician has the opportunity to practice, fail and improve without consequences for the patient,” said Edwin Negron-Cortes, education specialist, Caribbean Health Care System.

Negron-Cortes is also the SimLEARN coordinator at the San Juan VA in Puerto Rico. He works with the clinical staff in the SimLAB where they practice critical care skills such as the Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC).

Training helped save Veteran’s life

TNCC helps refresh clinical staff on what to do when they have trauma patients. This refresher recently helped save a patient’s life in San Juan. A Veteran who had fallen from a building was rushed into the emergency department. Nurse Yasiry Lozada-Ortega was on duty and had just finished the TNCC. She jumped into action.

“It helped us prepare ourselves and determine what is important,” explained Lozada-Ortega. “The patient was stabilized and safely transferred to a trauma center.”

Almost 3,000 miles away, at the Sturgis VA in South Dakota, another Veteran was saved thanks to SimLEARN’s virtual trainings. This time, it was the Resuscitation Education and Innovation (REdI) training program. REdI’s trainings are conducted on a quarterly basis to ensure clinical staff retain the skills they need to help a patient during a cardiac emergency.

Another life saved in emergency room

Nurse Rob Knight was working in the emergency department when a patient went into cardiac arrest and flatlined. His team reacted in a matter of seconds to the emergency. Knight said the recent refresher training from REdI was key to saving the Veteran’s life.

“We shocked him,” Knight said. “Probably within five seconds his eyes came open and he looked right at us and said, ‘What did you guys just do to me?’ We looked up at the monitor. We had a good rhythm on the monitor, he had a really good pulse and obviously he was awake and talking.”

These are just two examples of the impact SimLEARN has on patient care at VA medical centers. From COVID-19 escape rooms that help clinical staff understand coronavirus safety protocols to 5G capabilities in a state-of-the-art training center, SimLEARN uses innovative technology and thinking to keep our medical staff on their A-game.

“This is a team effort,” said Negron-Cortes. “It’s not just here in the Simulation Lab. It’s also SimLEARN sending us instructors so our team can participate in courses and continue developing the skills they have.”

Visit the SimLEARN website to learn about the other innovative education initiatives we are implementing and how they help improve the care Veterans receive at VA.

By Jerry Michaud is executive director of VHA's Office of Communications

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Published on Feb. 21, 2022

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