UTHSC opens $40M patient simulator center

After roughly three years under construction, the new $39.7 million Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will open its doors on May 11 for its grand opening.

The three-story, 45,000-square-foot building at 26 South Dunlap Street will be used for education, research, and professional development of enhanced clinical skills. This is accomplished using standardized patients, who are actors from the community trained to portray patients with specific conditions, virtual reality technology, and high-fidelity patient simulators, which are manikins costing between $15,000 to $220,000 each.

“There are very few stand-alone buildings that are dedicated to health care simulation in the country, so this is one of only a handful and the only one in Tennessee,” said CHIPS Executive Director Dr. Chad Epps.

The new center will allow students from UTHSC’s six colleges – Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Medicine, and Pharmacy – to train together in simulation settings to develop their skills in delivering team-based health care.

Each floor of the building was designed by architects brg3s to highlight a different aspect of simulation training. The project’s audio/video budget topped $4.5 million, with all of the rooms having multiple cameras, microphones, and taps on the phones.

“On the first floor, we have two large bed labs that have 12 beds each, designed to practice skills and procedures,” said Epps, who has been active in simulation education, research, assessment and center management for more than 10 years. “And we also have a room that’s dedicated to virtual simulation, with virtual high technology trainers where you can practice things like laproscopic surgeries or doing colonoscopies or robotic surgeries in a very realistic environment.”

The first floor also includes a simulated home environment, where students can practice delivering in-home patient care.

The second floor features a hospital-like acute care setting with patient rooms and a variety of manikins for simulating everything from surgery to labor and delivery, as well as classrooms and debriefing rooms.

The third floor is home to the standardized patient program, with 24 patient exam rooms (dubbed the Kaplan Center for Clinical Skills) and a simulated community pharmacy where students can learn compounding of drugs and pharmacy policies.

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.