When one thinks of a top-tier medical education, a troupe of actors doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But that is exactly what New York Medical College (NYMC) has been employing since 2014 in its Valhalla-based Clinical Skills and Simulation Center (CSSC). According to Katharine Yamulla, senior director of Competency-Based Assessment and Clinical Skills Education, director of the CSSC, and an instructor of medicine at New York Medical College, such programs have become a vital element of contemporary medical education.
“Simulation has been an industry standard for training medical schools for quite a while now,” explains Yamulla. “[NYMC] felt it was very important to build our own center because we have a large student population, and simulation is known to promote positive patient outcomes and support learner wellness. We not only train School of Medicine students; we also train physical therapy students, nursing, students, and residents with a curriculum that is unique to the needs of our institution and of Westchester County.”
But what exactly is the CSSC? “The CSSC is an innovative training environment where we want to promote students feeling as good about having successes as much as [they feel bad about] making a mistake, and learning from it, in a safe environment,” says Yamulla. “It’s an environment to bring medical education to life.” This amounts to doctors getting the chance to practice various scenarios with either actors — known as “standardized patients” — or technologically advanced mannequins.
“They can deliver bad news, such as having to tell someone their partner is brain-dead or to tell someone that their child has developmental issues, which arguably can be a minefield if you are delivering that information for the first time to parents or a loved one,” says Yamulla. “Here, they can do that, and then, when it’s done, the patient steps out of their role and can give feedback to the learner. That is truly the magic of simulation: It’s helping the learner, and it’s helping the thousands of patients in Westchester who don’t even know this practice is happening.”
While the NYMC is still nailing down funding, Yamulla says they are hoping to expand the CSSC this summer with new suites involving surgery, gynecology, orthopedics, pediatric simulations, and more. “We hope to begin in July retrofitting areas of the building that are not being used,” says Yamulla. “We are hoping to expand about 8,000 to 10,000 square feet of the center to enhance our current footprint, so we can target other specialties we haven’t before and help us address some of the underserved populations of Westchester that we haven’t had the capacity or equipment to focus on in the past.”