Center for Simulation Innovation at UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing earns prestigious accreditation

James Cleveland, PhD, RN, director of the Center for Simulation Innovation at the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, shows off Hal, a talking mannequin, to visitors from the Sigma Theta Tau International Society of Nursing late last year.

Life-like mannequins train students, health care professionals

Contact: Steven Lee, (210) 450-3823,

SAN ANTONIO, April 30, 2024 – Hal, the talking mannequin that’s a centerpiece of a simulation training lab at the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, comes with life-like head and facial movements and the occasional attitude of a youthful patient.

“Hello, my name is Hal. And if you talk to me, I’ll talk back,” he greets guests touring the lab, cheerfully at first. “How are you doing, Hal?” asks James Cleveland, PhD, RN, the lab’s director and tour guide this day.

“I want to go home!” Hal shoots back.

Cleveland is shown with Vivien, a life-like mannequin.

Yes, most everything at the school’s Center for Simulation Innovation is intended to prepare nursing students and professionals for patients they might encounter in a hospital or clinic – from a petulant young boy to the elderly, including a woman portrayed here by a mannequin named Vivien with skin that seems creepily real to the touch. One housekeeper, horrified, asked to be reassigned shortly after encountering the mannequins the first time during night-time cleaning rounds.

But the lab now has something else: accreditation from the prestigious Society for Simulation in Healthcare in the area of Teaching/Education, making the school one of only three statewide with the much sought-after designation at this level. No schools in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth or Austin have it.

“It’s an international body and it truly validates the work we do at the highest level, showing that we are on par with industry standards for simulation delivery,” Cleveland said. “Not just with nursing, but it’s a large tent. We are on par for all inter-professional education activities.”

Lou Ann Click, manager of simulation support, checks in on mannequin Victor.

The Center for Simulation Innovation is a 7,300-square-foot simulation hospital and 6,500-square-foot skills laboratory for training students and health care professionals, on the bottom floor of the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio’s main campus. It started in 2013, with a single room and mannequin, and has had many expansions and upgrades since.

The facility operates clinical practice laboratories and associated technology-based initiatives to deliver an optimal simulated learning experience. State-of-the-art technology provides high-, medium- and low-fidelity mannequins and other learning resources to train students and health professionals in the region.

Even simulated babies at the lab can move.

Hal’s voice and movement are controlled from a computer panel in the next room, on the other side of a window blocked from Hal’s side by art screens, and his eyes frequently blink and follow students and others tending to him. He holds court from a hospital bed and wears a hospital gown.

“Hal itself has a voice modulator where you could do your voice at a low pitch or high pitch,” said the man behind the curtain – in this case, the window – who provides Hal’s voice: Braulio Amezaga, MA, audio-visual manager, tech supervisor and education support specialist. “So, I just move it to a high pitch so that when I speak, I sound like a 5-year-old boy.”

Cleveland and Click hold “skins” that update mannequins that still seem real in function but no longer in appearance.

Other mannequins range from Vivien – “You can do IVs on her,” Cleveland said – to expectant-mother Victoria and a maternity ward with newborns in individual cribs. Victoria also can talk and has eye movement, and even the babies can move.

“The goal is to use this at all levels of education,” Cleveland said, including for the region’s first nurse anesthetist program, training registered nurses to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, that begins in August. He said a room already is targeted for the program, and will have specialized simulation techs working with faculty.

They could use Hal for anesthesia, as spinals can be performed on the mannequin, as well as intubation. Spinal blocks could be used on Victoria during delivery simulation.

Getting the Society for Simulation in Healthcare accreditation was a rigorous two-year process, involving faculty and staff, Cleveland said, but worth it. “It took a village,” he said. There are other accreditations or at smaller levels, but this one is the over-arching authority.

Simulation services include hands-on assistance in the use of technology and adjunct learning resources, with specialized simulations offered.

The lab resembles a hospital setting.

The facility is available to faculty and students on campus as well as to health care providers and companies.

For more information about the Center for Simulation Innovation or to book a learning resource, contact Cleveland at, 210-567-5862, or go here.



The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) is one of the country’s leading health science universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions, graduate biomedical sciences and public health have graduated more than 42,550 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,”

Hal’s voice and movement are controlled by computer from the other side of windows displaying art screens.

The UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing offers five academic programs, consisting of the BSN, DNP and PhD degrees and specialty certificates, and is dedicated to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in the nursing profession. First-generation college students represent one-third of its enrollment. The School of Nursing also operates a growing patient-care practice that provides primary and acute care by nurse practitioners, both on campus and at a variety of community partner sites. To learn more, visit

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