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EDA, community partners fund ‘virtual hospital’ at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio
July 23, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - A $1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and funding from several community partners will help the UT Health Science San Antonio's School of Nursing build a new, state-of-the-art Clinical Simulation Center.

The partners' funding boosts the investment in new nurses for South Texas to $3.1 million.

The 7,200-square-foot "virtual hospital" will be constructed in the basement of the existing School of Nursing building and will be one of the most advanced simulation training facilities in the nation.

"We have been working with a number of agencies, organizations and private donors to bring together the funds necessary to build a clinical education facility of this caliber," said School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN. "We appreciate the confidence our partners have shown in us to provide more and better educated nurses for South Texas."

The additional funds for the project include:

• $850,000 from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, part of a $3.9 million gift to the School of Nursing announced in February

• $750,000 from University Health System

• $150,000 from UT Health Science Center Nursing Advisory Council member Donna Block and her husband, Eddie Block

• $25,000 from Alamo Travel Group President Patricia Pliego Stoute

• $25,000 from the Nursing Advisory Council

• $300,000 from the School of Nursing

Inside the Clinical Simulation Center will be a variety of specialty rooms where student nurses can safely practice their knowledge, skills, collaboration and clinical judgment using the latest hospital equipment and computerized simulation manikins. This will prepare them before working with patients. The design will include control rooms, where faculty members can program the manikins to simulate realistic patient scenarios and where faculty instructors and groups of students can observe and evaluate how the students provide care.

The virtual hospital will be available to Health Science Center medical and health professions students, as well as students from other schools in South Texas. It will also be used for continuing education and certification.

"By working in this simulated environment that feels like the real thing, our students will be better educated and more comfortable providing patient-centered care," Dean Breslin said. "They will be prepared to work in interdisciplinary teams, like they will during their careers, and will be familiar with using evidence-based practice, which involves using the scientific method to discover the best practices and procedures for providing care. And one of the best parts is that our students will be practicing their skills in the same type of environment and using the same state-of-the-art equipment they will find with some of their future employers."

University Health System is contributing $750,000 to construct Phase1, already under way, for mock-up operating rooms, patient rooms and an emergency center. Dean Breslin proposed this partnership as a member of a University Health System advisory committee for its $899.4 million capital improvement program. The program includes a 1 million-square-foot hospital tower featuring new patient rooms, surgical facilities, an expanded emergency center and trauma center being funded by Bexar County taxpayers.

"University Health System needed a place to try out different room configurations and to test new equipment, and we were looking for partners to help us build the virtual hospital," Dean Breslin said. "It was a great opportunity for us to work together and pool our resources for everyone's benefit." Once UHS has completed its evaluations this fall, the rooms and equipment will become part of the virtual hospital.

"Building mock patient rooms and operating rooms will enable our staff to provide important feedback to our Capital Improvement Team before we finalize our plans for the new hospital tower," said University Health System President and CEO George B. Hernández Jr. "We are also thrilled to construct these facilities in the School of Nursing, where they will be able to support our joint mission to train the next generation of health professionals for many years to come."

"This type of evaluation is usually done in leased space and then is torn down," explained Mark Webb, vice president of facilities development and project management at University Health System. "In this case, it will be useful for the Health Science Center, and later on our staff will also be able to do some training there. Overall, this is a much better use of taxpayer dollars."

The $1 million EDA grant announced June 22 will fund Phase 2, expected to begin in fall 2010. Phase 2 will include an ambulatory surgical unit, pediatric unit, a birthing suite, and mother and baby suite.

"This is good news for the future of economic development in the area," said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who announced the funding. "The investment will give a boost to the local economy by creating jobs, and I applaud the local leaders who worked to secure this funding."

Methodist Healthcare Ministries' gift will purchase 10 simulation manikins and other equipment for the virtual hospital, while the gifts from private donors will assist with the construction costs.

The Clinical Simulation Center will support the School of Nursing's expanding program that includes three new degree programs. A 15-month baccalaureate degree for students with a bachelor's in another field was launched in May. An online master's degree for students with an associate's degree in nursing, as well as a doctoral degree in nursing practice, will be offered in 2011. The three new degree programs are designed to build a collaborative nursing pipeline with the 19 other nursing schools in South Texas to alleviate the nursing shortage in bedside care, research, leadership and nursing education.

The School of Nursing awarded 280 undergraduate degrees and 68 graduate degrees during the 2009-2010 academic year. Historically about 85 percent of nursing graduates remain in South Texas to practice. "Over the next five years, we anticipate graduating more than 1,000 undergraduate nursing students, and we project that 900 of them will practice in South Texas," Dean Breslin said.

"The Clinical Simulation Center will support our efforts to graduate additional nurses and to develop more extensive collaborations with our educational and clinical partners," she said. "The virtual hospital will help increase new knowledge, develop capabilities and address the nursing workforce needs within our region."

 

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