Detroit Mercy’s New STAR Center Trains Next Generation of Health Care Professionals

In order to train students in conditions as close to reality as possible, the University of Detroit Mercy College of Health Professions (CHP) in Detroit has created the Simulation, Technology, and Research Center (STAR).
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Woman working on dummy
University of Detroit Mercy’s STAR nursing training center was designed to look like a functioning hospital. // Photo courtesy of University of Detroit Mercy

In order to train students in conditions as close to reality as possible, the University of Detroit Mercy College of Health Professions (CHP) in Detroit has created the Simulation, Technology, and Research Center (STAR).

The facility is located on the school’s McNichols Campus. It has been designed to look like a working hospital with wide hallways and doors to accommodate the movement of beds from room to room as well as machines that beep vital signs.

Patients are treated for trauma while others give birth, with all of it is done under the watchful eyes of simulation and clinical faculty in a nearby control room.

“We have done simulation for years, but this is simulation through a different lens,” says Nina Favor, assistant dean for prelicensure clinical partnerships at CHP. “This center broadens it and uses the discipline according to the International nursing Association for Clinical and Simulation Learning standards.”

The center is designed to promote student-faculty collaboration in one space, enhance flexibility of the curriculum, and the scenarios help students understand the benefits of different ways of treating patients.

More than three years in the making, the STAR Center was created to redefine the CHP’s interprofessional environment. Every program that falls under the CHP, from physician assistant to Bachelor of Nursing will benefit, says Favor. The center will be able to connect with Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, where Detroit Mercy runs the nursing program and the new Novi campus, where the Master’s Entry Advanced Generalist Nursing (MEAGN) program is offered.

“I’m really excited about this,” says Favor. “We could have one patient and be teaching students on three campuses.”

The site also is designed to be beneficial to students on the three campuses who need training on serving rural, hearing impaired, aging, youth, and other populations that have unique needs.

It also can be used to expand some of the dual enrollment programs the CHP currently does with middle and high school students. It also should be an asset for recruitment and retention of CHP students.

“And it serves our mission too, because it can be used to improve and increase our healthcare outreach to the community,” says Jane Baiardi, interim dean for CHP.

The STAR Center is coming just in time. According to a new University of Michigan study, 39 percent of Michigan nurses say they plan on leaving their jobs in the next year. Among nurses younger than 25, 59 percent say they expect to leave the profession. While there are many reasons for this exodus, the fact remains that there are far fewer nurses working and in the pipeline.

“Nursing as a profession is an aging profession,” says Baiardi. “Research shows huge percentages of the current workforce is looking to leave the profession. A big reason for that is burnout.”

Simulation training will better prepare students for the jobs that are out there. By being better prepared, they will know how to handle situations in the workforce before they have to confront them in real time. That can help prevent burnout.

The new site is important, officials say, because the school determined that the former simulation center was too cramped and outdated and didn’t allow for easy simulcasting to other campuses. This new center will use artificial intelligence tools to increase the learning experience.

Virtual-reality mannequins will have artificial intelligence and be able to answer questions from students. They will have vital signs and one will be able to simulate having a baby.

Cameras and one-way mirrors will allow instructors to watch as students learn everything from bedside manner to labor and delivery. Collaborative spaces for active learning are also included in the renovations that created the Center. Much of the $4-million cost of the Center has been paid for by donors.

“This is the future of health care education,” says Favor. “It’s great for Detroit Mercy, our students and the community.”