simulationToday marks a milestone at HCA Healthcare. Its TriStar Division in Nashville celebrates the one-year anniversary of its first-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art simulation learning center (SLC) for nurses.

The simulation learning center replicates real-life scenarios nurses may experience at the hospital bedside, allowing them to perfect clinical practice without patient risk.

“Our nurses appreciate the benefits of continued education that our innovative space can provide. We’re finding our teams are more engaged and feel confident in clinical practice,” said Brenda Kulhanek, vice president of clinical education for the HCA TriStar Division. “We continue to explore future uses of our SLC to improve educational efforts, not only in the field of nursing, but incorporating entire multidisciplinary teams and facilitating additional skills training.” 

Learning by Doing  

The HCA TriStar Division has found that simulation learning is attractive to new nurses and a key consideration when choosing a nurse residency. Nurses want real-time feedback and clinical coaching from preceptors to provide guidance and support.

The SLC is 13,000-square-feet and represents a $3 million investment to the division’s HCA Nurse Residency. Within the SLC, nurses will find:


–          Six classrooms

–          15 simulation beds

–          19 “patient” mannequins

–          Three instructor control rooms

–          Two conference rooms

–          Two debriefing rooms

Currently, the SLC provides workforce development and continued learning opportunities for more than 6,100 nurses who work at the division’s 19 hospitals and other sites of care.

Nurses can practice techniques ranging from administering medication to managing complex situations, such as severe allergic reactions or sepsis, a life-threatening condition. And the mannequins the caregivers treat mimic human physiology, so the simulations appear real. They have heart beats; their chests move up and down when breathing; their eyelids blink, and their lips turn blue during respiratory failure.

There is even a pregnant mannequin that simulates the labor and delivery process.

On the Other Side of Two-Way Glass

Simulation technologists create different simulation tasks and monitor behaviors behind mirrors in instructor control rooms.

After running through a simulation, teams meet in the debriefing room for self-reflection to provide insight on what happened from another participant’s perspective.

“When you’re working in a high-stakes field that has no room for error, simulation learning provides the ability to perfect communication and decision-making skills with the ultimate goal of enhancing patient safety,” said Velinda Block, chief nursing executive for the HCA TriStar Division. “I believe one of the most important impacts of this technology is the ability to debrief after a critical incident and alleviate any potential barriers to patient care.”

Current training opportunities at the SLC include basic life support, advanced cardiovascular life support and pediatric advanced life support certifications.

What’s next?

Since the grand-opening last year, the SLC has hosted 3,443 unique visitors and more continue to come for training opportunities.simulation

“Approximately 850 of those visitors were nurse residents and we are projected to double the amount of visitors we had last year,” said Justin Laferty, director of simulation learning for the HCA TriStar Division. “We are providing insights from our experiences to use as best practices for the design and operations of upcoming simulation learning centers in the HCA Continental (Denver) and West Florida divisions.” 

Seven employees are currently trained to operate mannequins. The division is developing more simulationists to train nurses to expand our company’s network of simulation learning.

In the meantime, thanks to the simulation learning center, HCA-affiliate nurses are more prepared now than ever to provide safe, quality care to real patients.

The HCA TriStar Division supports over 911,000 patients and over 730,000 emergency room visits annually in Middle Tennessee, Southern Kentucky, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Atlanta. The division operates 19 hospitals with 3,320 licensed beds and related care areas. 

HCA 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.