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Kern Medical takes simulated procedures 'to the next level' with new facility

In a hospital, one mistake can be the difference between life and death. Anyone who has ever seen an emergency room on television knows there are all kinds of fast-paced decisions doctors and nurses routinely must make to keep their patient alive.

Identifying the right affliction, sewing up deep cuts, and in a worst-case scenario, restarting someone’s heart all regularly occur in medical institutions across the country. Fortunately for us, doctors make the right calls, close wounds and revive patients successfully in the vast majority of situations.

But in Kern County, a new “state-of-the-art” facility is making it easier for doctors and nurses to get the best outcomes for patients.

On Tuesday, Kern Medical debuted its new $850,000 Simulation Center, which is meant to give medical professionals a chance to hone their skills outside the high-pressure realities of the emergency room.

Built in the hospital’s old intensive care unit, the Simulation Center is filled with medical practice devices. In one room, a doctor may rehearse stitches and IV insertion on “bioplastic,” a rubbery pad with slits spread throughout or a realistic vein down the middle. In another room, a medical team can perform CPR on a realistic human dummy that has a pulse and whose vital signs are displayed on a monitor on the wall.

“They come here to learn on plastic what they’re about to do on a real person,” Dr. Sage Wexner, who is the director of the center, told a small gathering of reporters on Tuesday. “And if it was your grandmother, you’d want their first experience to be on a plastic person as opposed to your grandma.”

For years, Wexner said the space was a “gleam” in Kern Medical’s eyes. After devoting a huge amount of time and energy into converting the space into its new purpose, the Simulation Center is now available to not just doctors, but nurses, physician assistants, EMTs and even paramedic students.

The possibilities made real by the facility have seemingly excited the hospital’s staff. After giving a tour of the site to the media, a small crowd of staffers gathered inside to mingle with all the new equipment.

“You go to UCLA, you go to USC, our simulation center now compares to their simulation centers,” said Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd. “This is as good as you’re going to see at any academic medical institution, and that’s because we are an academic medical institution.”

The center will come in handy to the doctors who often put in far more practice into medical techniques than is immediately apparent. Dr. Ty Tran said for every patient he “closed up,” he spent at least an hour practicing.

For more advanced procedures like resuscitation, the center provides the medical team the ability to review their actions on a recording to determine what went well and what could have gone better.

“It’s kind of like game film,” said Dr. Atish Vanmali, referring to the football tradition of watching tape of past performances before a big game. “You have that time where it’s not an immediate life-or-death (situation). It’s practice for that, which is what I like about it.”

The hospital says all of the simulations are there to improve care for the community, and staff from any hospital in the region are welcome.

“We are going to make better doctors, we’re going to make better nurses, we’re going to make better respiratory therapists,” Judd said, “because they are going to have the opportunity to do it in a simulation mode prior to them having to do it in their real life.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.