Couturier on a K-Mart Budget: My Review of the Rural Norther California Simulation Center

Friday, July 31, 2009

Nestled in a little college town, two hours North of Sacramento, California, is one of simulation training's hidden gems; the Rural Northern California Simulation Center. As a part of our faculty development program, myself and two others had the great pleasure of heading to Chico, California, and not just for the magnificent Thursday night farmers market, OR the unprecedented food & specialty drinks at Gencarelli & Wellman's "CRUSH" restaurant & lounge. If you've never heard of Becky Damazo, and this simulation center, it's high time you do, book-mark their page, and plan on a visit; this little gem's got a lot of sparkle! You're going to be seeing it listed right up there with the big dogs in no time. Becky Damazo, of California State University, and her highly effective, efficient staff of 2 (YES, I really did say 2), along with some help from her sons, run an Ivy-League institution on a state-tight budget.

While on my own quest for quality faculty development in simulation methodology, I was confronted with many "designer" labels that carry expensive price tags. Even though one other faculty member and myself have both been trained at some of these first-class programs, either of us had time to develop the depth of exercises we required. Not to mention, those holding the check books always prefer the fare that goes with "generic" labels, especially if the same quality can be procured. Because of time, and more-so because we wanted to send several faculty members, we chose Becky's "Intermediate Conference on Simulation Methodology" (AKA the "Simulation Spa" [pedicure, manicure, and massage are surprisingly available]). I never expected to walk away so pleased with the outcome.

Serving the simulation needs for many educational and health care organizations in the surrounding areas, they're soon to be regional leaders is simulation methodology. They currently occupy only 4 patient-care rooms, a nurses station, and some storage space in this relatively vacant hospital, but they fill them with simulators from METI, Laerdal, & Gaumard, not to mention standardized patients, computer based learning, and lecture animation capabilities. Although they may not be "blinged" out like more established centers, they prove that it's not about the technology, it's about the methodology! The beauty of their location is that they're literally in a fully functional, almost empty hospital building. With so much space at their finger tips, I can only imaging that soon they may become a full-sized simulated hospital with every potential service imaginable. If Governor Schwarzenegger ever reads this... he'd be a wise man to invest. It's only a matter of time until the merits of simulation training in health care proves itself as effective means by which lives & money can be saved, evidence can be built, and outcomes in education can be greatly improved (amongst other things).

Damazo & her team offer a two-day conference focusing on best practices in simulation methodology. The first day focuses on the theories behind the practice, the second day focuses on putting the theory into practice. They cover everything the novice faculty facilitator needs to know; scenario design, basic scenario programming, moulage, introductory and intermediate debriefing concepts, how to avoid bad habits, and they give you the chance to practice. You build a scenario from scratch, validate it, run it with living participants & human-patient-simulators, debrief it, then debrief the debriefing. To top it off, you walk away with 12 continuing education credits! How great is that!?! The only drawback to the two-day conference is... it's only two days. Each of these topics could easily be full day topics, if not longer. But Ms. Damazo, and her team, effectively provide the content, details, and information in a manner that any adult learner can take and master in their own environments.

While designer labels often provide excellence in quality, are aesthetically pleasing, have the latest technology and the biggest budgets, this center proves that the generic label can be just as good. Though they don't currently provide the many specialty programs you may find with some of the Ivy-League programs, I have no doubt they'll catch up soon. If your time & budget are short, check out the amazing work that Becky Damazo & her team have done at the Rural Northern California Simulation Center.

When you get there, enjoy a beautiful evening in downtown Chico and a stroll through the fragrant farmer's market. Cool off with a refreshing swim at 1-mile swimming hole just a few blocks away (very, very nice, very very clean, very very cool!!!! [trust me]). To make your day complete, head on over to CRUSH for a gin martini (with two of their a-a-amazing olives), the terrific fried green tomatoes (HELLO! Farmers Market), and my choice - the cedar plank salmon; grilled med-rare or "Cheeky" @ Chico's choice - the amazing home-made butternut ravioli with those tomatoes from God! When you're done... not only will your appetite be satiated, but you'll also understand why they call this the "Simulation Spa!"