New CMU Health Professions facilities aim to integrate and enhance student learning

A trauma patient, lying on the crisp white sheets of a hospital bed, is bleeding out. As the white sheets turn crimson, doctors from all different disciplines rush in to save the man’s life — or at least keep him alive until a surgeon can operate. The patient, a man who looks to be approximately 30-years-old, is the victim of an explosion. Where his legs once were, there are two bloody stumps, bone and flesh exposed just below his knee. There’s a grotesque wound on his left thigh, near his groin; and another on the inside of his left arm. The doctors wrap tourniquets around the man’s legs in an attempt to stop the bleeding; but, despite their efforts, he’s dying. His breathing turns shallow and raspy. Then his heart stops. The doctors tried their best, but they couldn’t save him.

Except, the patient is merely a high-tech mannequin and the doctors really aren’t doctors at all; they’re students of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions at Central Michigan University.

Role-playing scenarios — like the one imagined above— are beginning to fill CMU’s Interprofessional Education and Practice Center (IPEP Center). The center officially opened at the beginning of the spring 2020 semester, however it is not expected to be fully operating until April.

The IPEP Center's trauma dummy has a wound located on its left upper thigh.

The IPEP Center is the crown jewel of CMU’s newest building — the addition to the Health Professions Building. Equipped with six life-like mannequins and eight standardized patient rooms, the IPEP Center was created to give students of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions real-world experience and the ability to work side-by-side with students from different disciplines.

“The idea is that you have all these students from different programs working on the same patient at the same time,” says Tom Masterson, dean of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions. “Ultimately, when you’re doing this the outcome is going to be better patient care.”

The IPEP Center is the result of a popularized approach to health care, often referred to as interprofessional or integrated health care. Interprofessional health care entails effective communication between health professionals working with the same patient.

“What makes integrated health care unique is the sharing of information among team members related to patient care and the establishment of a comprehensive treatment plan to address the biological, psychological, and social needs of the patient. The interprofessional health care team includes a diverse group of members (e.g., physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other health professionals), depending on the needs of the patient,” reads the American Psychological Association’s website.

The infant mannequin will turn blue in the face if its head is held incorrectly in the IPEP Center.

While the interprofessional approach to health care originated in the 1960s, the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 placed a renewed urgency on the integration of this approach into the medical field, according to an article published in the Journal of Phonetics and Audiology.

A variety of studies over the past 20 years have detailed how interprofessional health care improves patient outcomes: it reduces preventable
drug reactions, decreases mortality rates, and leads to more properly prescribed medication dosages. Interprofessional health care is even known to reduce work load and increase job satisfaction for health care providers. Educating students on the interprofessional health care model is critical to seeing the continuation of these results.

“Interprofessional education is the direction that health care has been heading to for a long time,” says Amy Malheim, director of the IPEP Center. “It teaches students how to work with different professions because that’s what they’re going to be doing in their jobs.”

To utilize the IPEP Center, faculty from various departments will meet with Malheim to schedule and design a simulation experience for their students. The simulation experiences include practicing on mannequins or ‘real patients’, played by actors. During these experiences, faculty can watch and listen from behind a two-way mirror or video feed to judge their students’ performances and provide feedback.

Amy Malheim demonstrates how faculty will be able to monitor and record standardized patient encounters via video and audio feeds located in each of the center’s eight standardized patient rooms in the IPEP Center.


“The IPEP Center allows students to get as real as they can, while having the ability to interact with expert faculty and — if they made a mistake — talk about what they could have done better,” says the Assistant Dean of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, Denise Webster.

Taylor Hoekwater, the clinical education coordinator for the athletic training program, was among the first faculty members able to utilize the IPEP Center’s facilities.

On February 18, Hoekwater took several athletic training students to the center for a standardized patient encounter (SPE), which are essentially simulated real-world scenarios in which the student plays a licensed physician and an actor plays a patient.

Hoekwater watched the SPE’s via a live audio and video feed.

“For me, it becomes a lot clearer the students’ strengths and areas for improvement when they are working autonomously with a patient and I’m not there for them to fall back on,” says Hoekwater. “It gives me a sense of where the students stand.”

A trauma mannequin and an average male mannequin share a room in the IPEP Center.

A junior in the athletic training program, Sydney Holland, is one of Hoekwater’s students who participated in the SPE.

“Leading up to it I think we were all extremely nervous,” says Holland. “It really puts everything that you’ve learned to the test.”

During Holland’s SPE, she went over her patient’s medical history, ran special tests, came up with a diagnosis, and discussed a healthcare plan with the patient. Afterward, Holland watched the video recording of her SPE and completed a self-evaluation to reflect on her strengths and weaknesses.

“Going through the entire evaluation scenario you can see what you missed and watching the playback video you can see what you could have done differently,” she says.

Holland also received feedback from Hoekwater and the actor who played her patient. Faculty at The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions hope that having three individual assessments of a SPE will allow Holland and students like her to gain from the experience as much as possible.

“Gaining real world experience gives me more confidence in my abilities that I would not have otherwise,” says Holland. “Truly putting my skills and knowledge to the test in a situation such as this one allows me to show myself what I am capable of.”

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