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Eastern Campus simulation lab provides authentic and interactive training opportunities for medical students

Eastern Campus simulation lab provides authentic and interactive training opportunities for medical students

Medical students on the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Eastern Campus are using manikins and mock patients to learn crucial patient-care skills in a controlled environment, thanks to upgrades to the simulation center.

For the last decade, associate professor and associate program director for the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program, Aaron McLaughlin, M.D., has served as the simulation director for the Eastern Campus, where he works with medical students weekly in simulations spanning several disciplines of medicine.

Dr. McLaughlin said the state-of-the-art simulation equipment in the lab allows him to provide customized training to each student.

“The equipment we have here is extremely versatile,” McLaughlin said. “During each session, the students provide information on the types of cases they see on their clinical rotations, and then we can use that information to formulate various simulations that coincide with each of their ongoing clerkships.”

The simulation lab comprises of two exam rooms, a control room and three interactive manikins. McLaughlin explained that faculty can control the manikins to simulate practically any medical scenario. He added that they can even speak to students through a microphone as the simulated patients so they can describe symptoms and answer students’ questions in real-time.

“Communicating with and reacting to our students throughout the treatment process helps us deliver a simulated patient-care experience that is as close to the real thing as possible. We typically simulate low-frequency, high-severity medical conditions that require our students to explore their knowledge of inpatient medical conditions, therapies, and interventions and encourage them to work together as a team to deliver the best treatment possible,” McLaughlin said.

One of the lab’s two exam rooms provides a broad hospital-centric training environment that often spans different areas of medicine, such as family medicine, pediatrics and emergency medicine. The other exam room offers a more specialized training environment in OBGYN.

In this space, students can simulate performing infant deliveries thanks to “Victoria,” a state-of-the-art obstetric patient simulator. Dr. McLaughlin said this is perhaps one of the most crucial training opportunities they offer in the simulation lab, as it exposes medical students to an area of medicine that they don’t typically experience. By using Victoria, students can participate in a simulated vaginal delivery and discuss obstetrical emergencies in a safe, low-stakes environment prior to residency.

“In my role with the residency program, I’ve noticed very few young physicians will come into our program with much or any experience performing deliveries,” McLaughlin said. “I am proud to say we have made these simulations a focal point of our training on the Eastern Campus to help prepare our medical students for residency rotations.”

The OBGYN lab space also has a neonatal training station, where students can practice neonatal care on an infant simulation manikin after completing a delivery from the Victoria doll. Fourth-year medical student Imani Major said the combination of obstetrics and neonatal training the lab provides will be crucial to her during the next phase of her medical career.

“As someone aiming to enter the obstetrics field after medical school, the things I have learned through my simulation training have been invaluable,” Major said. “I remember being so nervous the first time I participated in a delivery simulation session with Victoria, and the sessions that followed have been paramount not only in building my skill set but also in building my confidence in the delivery room.”

To learn more about the opportunities available to students at the School of Medicine’s Eastern Campus, visit