University of South Florida

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USF Health's Experiential Learning Lab prepares medical students for real-world patient care

USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s (MCOM) Experiential Learning lab prepares its medical students for the complexities and challenges of real-world health care. The Experiential Learning Lab utilizes simulation training as a cornerstone of its educational approach. This innovative program equips aspiring physicians with the skills and experience needed to provide the highest quality of patient care upon graduation.

Simulation training has emerged as a critical component of medical education, and USF Health recognizes its significance in ensuring the safety and well-being of patients. From the outset of their medical school journey, students engage in simulation exercises designed to simulate actual clinical scenarios. "Simulation was developed as a method to create a safer environment for our patients to be seen, and so we do simulation for everyone from the beginning of medical school all the way through,” said Dawn Schocken, PhD, director of Experiential Learning and Simulation for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Students, within their very first week of medical school, undergo training in basic life support. This foundational skill ensures that these future physicians are prepared to act swiftly and competently in the event of a cardiac arrest or other critical situations, serving as the first line of defense for patients in need. “We teach them basic life support so that if they are in a clinical or nonclinical environment and someone needs help, they can provide the first line of defense for people who are in cardiac arrest,” Dr. Schocken said. 

Students learning basic life support.

Students learning basic life support.

USF Health MCOM goes beyond clinical skills, offering students a unique opportunity to experience life through the lens of patients living under various socioeconomic conditions. This immersive approach fosters empathy and helps students gain a deep understanding of the diverse patient populations they will encounter in their careers. " We teach our students to recognize what some communities look like that they may work for, doing simulations gives them an opportunity to experience what some of their patients are experiencing,” Dr. Schocken said. 

To recreate authentic medical environments, USF Health employs cutting-edge technology, including high-fidelity simulation mannequins. Students gain hands-on experience working with surgical instruments, creating a simulated environment that mirrors the realities of medical practice. This practical exposure enables them to explore their chosen field comprehensively. 
As students progress through their four years at USF Health, they continue to refine their skills and gain an in-depth understanding of their chosen specialties. This rigorous training ensures that upon graduation, they are not only clinically competent but also well-prepared to provide the highest level of care to patients in emergency settings. 

Students learning how to suture.

Students learning how to suture at CAMLS.

USF Health's Experiential Learning Lab serves as a testament to the institution's dedication to producing health care professionals who are not only knowledgeable but also compassionate and ready to meet the needs of diverse patient populations.   "When students finish their four years at USF, they're capable of providing the care that their patients need and are prepared skillset when they're in an emergency setting. So, when they graduate, we know they're clinically competent and they can take care of their patients, " Dr. Schocken said. 

Through innovative simulation training and a commitment to excellence, USF Health is shaping the future of healthcare, one aspiring physician at a time. The institution's dedication to patient safety and high-quality care is setting a new standard in medical education. 

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About Health News

USF Health News highlights the great work of the faculty, staff and students across the four health colleges – Morsani College of Medicine, College of Public Health, College of Nursing and Taneja College of Pharmacy – and the multispecialty physicians group. USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida, integrates research, education and health care to reach our shared value - making life better.