Coaching for Tomorrow

The Palmetto Health-University of South Carolina School of Medicine Simulation Center Has Been Training Professionals and Recruiting the Next Generation of Healthcare Workers

The SimCOACH™ parked just outside of the Heyward Career & Technology Center in Northeast Columbia looks a bit like a rental RV you might take on a trip to Yellowstone or to a weekend tailgate. The fully-equipped mobile simulation laboratory owned by the Palmetto Health-University of South Carolina School of Medicine Simulation Center is painted in the hospital’s trademark colors with a couple of bulky extended rooms bulging out from its already-sizable cabin.

There’s something that feels recreational and fun about the six-wheeled behemoth, but once you step inside, it’s a different story. There are two main rooms in the SimCOACH™, and each has the feel of an ambulance crossed with a small a classroom, ready for medical professionals to do their thing. Moving, “breathing” dummies are in each room ready to present a host of different scenarios for participants to respond to including a mock delivery of a baby.

Palmetto Health partnered with Birth Outcome Initiative (BOI) to secure the funds for the mobile simulation lab so they can provide training to all 44 birthing hospitals in South Carolina at no charge. BOI strives to reduce primary cesarean section deliveries by supporting vaginal births, and the lab allows healthcare providers to gain hands-on practice in performing low-volume, high-risk procedures necessary in deliveries with complications.

That’s not all the SimCOACH™ does though—it’s also a valuable educational and recruitment tool for young adults looking to enter the healthcare field.

That’s why Allen Kenney and Glen Miller, Simulation Specialists at Palmetto Health, are at the Heyward Career & Technology Center. The trip is part of a series of events the Simulation Center is doing to stoke interest in healthcare careers among the next generation across South Carolina. In one lab, Miller leads groups of students in responding to a young man bleeding from the knee thanks to a seatbelt-less car accident. In the other, Kenney walks through how to respond to a woman in cardiac arrest. The simulations are entrancing—the dummy bodies have incredibly life-like qualities, including chest movements and a pulse that responds to the trainees’ actions. The students, most of whom have expressed some interest in healthcare, are tentative and uncertain at first, but gradually become engaged in the process.

Both Kenney and Miller use the simulations as a job talk as much as a training, offering their career perspectives and walking through the kind of education and employment opportunities in their field. For high school students like the ones at Heyward, it’s a clear opportunity to get a taste of what a job in healthcare might actually be like, stripping away the hard-to-pronounce words and textbook diagrams and getting close to the (almost) breathing reality of providing urgent care.

SimCOACH™ is at Heyward thanks to a partnership grant between SCHA and the SC Department of Education and will be traveling to five health science classrooms in each region of the state over the coming months. Those classrooms entered a contest to win the opportunity and were selected with special attention on where this resource could make the greatest impact. 

It’s really just like tailgating, except instead of for a football game, it’s for the next generation of healthcare workers in South Carolina.