The Health Science Center last week formally opened its $5 million Clinical Skills Center, where aspiring physicians and other health professions students learn the art of physical examination, patient history-taking and bedside manner. The new center is one of the most modern in the country and at 13,000 square feet is the largest simulated clinic setting for students in Texas.
The center was constructed through state tuition revenue bonds and a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). “We are grateful to the people of Texas and to Mr. Pedro Garza, Region Six director of the EDA, for their wonderful support of this project,” Health Science Center President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., said. “This center means so much because nowhere else can faculty get this much insight into how students are interacting with patients.” President Cigarroa welcomed Mr. Garza and other guests for the announcement.
The Clinical Skills Center gives students the chance to see standardized patients (SPs), community members who have been trained to interact with the students and who give medical histories that are consistent from student to student. Student-SP encounters take place in 20 exam rooms at the center. Faculty mentors view the interactions via one-way mirrors, and the sessions are digitally recorded with a Web-based system to allow subsequent further review.
Every medical school senior in the U.S. is required to take the U.S.M.L.E. Step II Clinical Skills Examination for licensure. The new center greatly enhances the Health Science Center students’ preparation for this licensure exam.
“The acts of obtaining a history and performing a clinical examination are the cornerstones of medical care,” said Thomas Mayes, M.D., M.B.A., interim dean of the Medical School. “We are now able to assure consistency in both the teaching of these vital skills and in objectively assessing competence in their performance. Our students will be better physicians and our patients will be the beneficiaries of this advance in our educational process.”
“This center formalizes our standardized patient program,” said Nan Clare, M.D., associate dean of the Medical School, professor of pathology and 1976 graduate of the Medical School. “It is a more-realistic environment that allows the student and standardized patient to interact in a simulated clinical setting that can be observed in live time as well as recorded time.”
Students enter the new exam rooms through an outer corridor. SPs enter the rooms through a secure inner corridor, where faculty can view the student/SP interaction.
In addition to the 20 exam rooms, the Clinical Skills Center includes four larger rooms where emergencies can be simulated and trauma care responses can be taught and assessed. The center also has two student classrooms and two laboratory alcoves for additional skills teaching.
The San Antonio Area Foundation provided a grant to outfit the trauma simulation room. Medical students pay an annual fee to support ongoing operating costs of the center. The medical dean’s office supports standardized patient compensation. Currently there are 35 SPs, some of whom have been assisting the Medical School for five years or longer.
Diane Ferguson, R.N., B.S.N., is the director of the Clinical Skills Center.