By Alex Pearlstein, Director of Projects.
I have seen the future of health education and it resides in Kansas City at Metropolitan Community College’s new (2009) state-of-the-art Health Science Institute (HSI). Now, we’re not talking about the training of physicians; we’ll leave that to medical schools. But just about every other health career has a presence at HSI. A Market Street colleague and I were in KC for a tour of the city’s economic development assets to coincide with the launch of a strategic process there. On our list was a visit to HSI at MCC’s Penn Valley campus in Midtown Kansas City.
Notwithstanding its 190,000 square feet worth of modern facilities, simulation stations, and classrooms, what is unique about HSI is its mission to co-locate all of the regional MCC system’s two-year certificate and degree health training programs in one building. This enables the college to purchase, for example, one wheelchair for multiple campuses and degree programs rather than a wheelchair each for every MCC campus and occupationally-specific training program. Not only are thousands of dollars saved, but the co-location of multiple training specializations ensures cross-programmatic interaction between students preparing for an A to Z list of health careers. These interactions mimic what professionals will experience in a real hospital or medical-office environment and teaches interpersonal and “soft skills” along with the technical skills of their chosen career. Add to that the presence of co-located four-year-degree programs from Kansas City area colleges and universities, “2+2” programs with local high schools, resident physicians polishing their skills, and contract services provided to regional hospitals, and you’ve got quite a dynamic hub for all things health care.
Possibly the coolest area at HSI is the Institute’s 10,000 sq. ft. Virtual Hospital, a simulation center that includes learning areas that mirror a hospital’s clinical environments and 12 life-like computer-operated human patient simulators that mimic scenarios such as trauma, shock, cardiac arrest, and many others. Professors operate the simulators in rooms separated by two-way glass. Visitors and interested students can “sit in” on training taking place in the rooms via glass walls and an intercom system broadcast into the adjacent hallway. As one walks through the Virtual Hospital, you start to forget you’re in a training institution and really feel like you’re strolling down a hospital corridor. Except of course that the patient-simulator manikins aren’t watching “Wheel of Fortune.”
In addition to the Virtual Hospital, HSI has simulated environments where students use real clinical equipment and tools to practice patient-care scenarios for dental, EMS, OT/PT, nursing, radiology, and surgery scenarios. There is even a fully furnished “simulated” apartment with a working kitchen and bathroom for students to practice home-care procedures for wheelchair-bound patients.
Needless to say, HSI administrators report that the Institute’s true-to-life learning environments have a powerful and positive effect on student learning. They hear from regional hospitals that graduates of HSI programs are not only technically skilled, but more ready to thrive in the frenzied environment of a real health care facility where professionals in multiple fields must interact and work together.
While I’m not familiar with every community college health care training facility across the U.S., I can’t imagine that any can top the learning environment offered by MCC’s Health Science Institute. If you’re ever in Kansas City, I would inquire about checking it out. Who knows, you might even get motivated to pursue a career change.