A crowd of people gathered around Jonathan Nguyen as he spoke to a mannequin lying in a hospital bed. Stranger yet, this one talked back. As its eyes blinked and its chest cavity rose and fell from simulated breathing, it told Nguyen about its pain.

This interaction displayed the latest simulation center for improving Veteran care, unveiled Sept. 17 at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. The opening coincided with Healthcare Simulation Week Sept. 16-20.


Simulation growing

Simulation is a rapidly growing program within VA, said Dr. Scott Wiltz, associate medical director for training at the SimLEARN National Simulation Center in Orlando, Florida. The program helps train healthcare professionals to improve service to Veterans.

“We want to make sure everyone is trained to a standard,” Wiltz said. “That’s the key to zero harm, high reliability healthcare, earning the trust of Veterans.”

As an example, Wiltz said a cardiac arrest victim is 50% more likely to survive at a VA medical center. He said a study showed the increased survival rate was due to standardized training, which is one of the main goals of simulation.

VA currently has a network of 12 advanced certified sites. Wiltz said these sites are doing the “biggest and best of simulation” for VA, including virtual reality training and video training. Instead of sitting behind a screen completing computer-based training, healthcare providers can learn skills through hands-on and live-action demonstrations.

The programs also greatly increase training opportunities, leading to better-trained staff to serve Veterans. A typical training program could train 10-12 people at a time. With virtual classes, multiple sites can join in, training up to 50 people at a time. The programs also recently opened up to DoD and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) healthcare participants.

Simulation is used in other industries as well, such as training pilots and aircrew on aircraft, and oil and gas employees on pipeline design and storage management.

Newest facility

At Richmond, trainers can program the mannequin for a variety of different scenarios, said Nguyen, who is a simulation operations specialist. The mannequin talks, breathes and even bleeds. Trainers can simulate cardiac arrest, code blues, gunshot wounds and a host of other situations.


Throughout the training room, microphones and cameras capture events as they unfold. Once a scenario is finished, trainers can replay and point out where trainees can improve. Many times, trainees will see areas where they can improve just by watching the replay.

The simulation components can also move outside the training room and into work areas, Nguyen said. The medical center recently trained on an operating room fire with smoke and fake fires, as well as moving patients up and down stairs if there’s an evacuation.

Patient safety and path forward

Since VA has a large population of residents, or doctors in training, simulation can help with patient safety significantly.

“We can teach people a lot of stuff before they go out,” said Dr. Michael Czekajlo, director of the Simulation Center. “If you’re a nursing student, a medical student or resident, you can be on your cardiology rotation and there were no heart attacks the week you were there. With simulation, we can make sure you saw that process.”

Czekajlo said having simulation allows a chance to perfect techniques. The technology has been used to help brain surgeons test new methods to ensuring standardized care, all without harming any patients.

The latest opening is an example of VA’s path forward on healthcare technology. Wiltz said there are pockets within VA doing very well with simulation training, which they are trying to expand. Additionally, VA is collaborating with the Defense Health Agency, sharing information and resources to improve care.

For more information about VA’s SimLEARN program, vist https://www.simlearn.va.gov/.

By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.

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Published on Sep. 19, 2019

Estimated reading time is 3.2 min.

Views to date: 324


  1. Naija Gist September 22, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Wow this is cool.
    Nice development.

  2. David W Rodgers September 20, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Should name it Lamont Sanford. Big Dummy

  3. Audrey Skarness September 20, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Already treated as a dummie.

  4. Frank Vera September 20, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    1) Start hiring the best-qualified people and not people because they fill a quota.

    2) End the unions, the AFGE is the main problem at the VA.

    3) Make it a felony for a VA employee to lie with the intent to defraud a Veteran SC disability.

    4) Give Veterans the ability to personally sue a VA employee that intently harms them.

    5) Require VA Employees and their family members to use the VA for medical care.

    6) Cap VA pensions at the level of a 100% disabled Veteran gets paid.

  5. Conrad Cool September 20, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Nothing new here. The VA has been treating us like we are all dummies for decades.

    • Audrey Skarness September 20, 2019 at 2:32 pm

      Right on!!!

  6. Chris September 19, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    I get the VA is trying to improve every which way they can but it’s going to take a lot more work than implementing better staffing procedures in hospitals.

    I definitely am trying my part to start up a magazine and business summit that will enable those transitioning out of the service a place to read, gather, and practice their skills for starting up their own business. We all know that we can accomplish any mission but once the reality of out of the service kicks in, it’s almost like we forget that.

    It would be an honor to maybe collaborate together and provide resources together!

  7. Stung by a bee? September 19, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Was that terrifying mannequin stung by a bee!? I assume that was the pain it spoke of.

  8. Daniel L Kibbee September 19, 2019 at 10:36 am

    That dummie looks just like me…. Hmmmm.

  9. Palmeri Richard September 19, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Great – va spending money on AI they cant successfully implement.
    Try cleaning the hospitals first to precent
    Nosocomial infection.
    Try making the phones work!
    Hire competent people.

    Try fixing the va website so people can navigate it
    Pathetic mess.

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