Practice makes perfect

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The SIM-MT medical trauma simulator truck run by Best Practice Medicine includes both an emergency room and ambulance simulation rooms. (Photo courtesy SIMMT)

A patient in the emergency room at North Valley Hospital suddenly suffers cardiac arrest. Or a mother experiences complications while giving birth.

Training medical staff to react and treat patients in these situations — which aren’t uncommon, but possibly an infrequent occurrence in rural hospitals — is the idea behind by Simulation in Motion Montana.

SIM-MT, run by Best Practice Medicine, is a nonprofit that operates high-tech mobile simulation trucks that provide training around the state.

One of the three lab trucks last week was parked at North Valley Hospital providing tours of the high-tech equipment as the North Valley Hospital Foundation begins a fundraising campaign to bring the training lab to the hospital more frequently.

Ben King, CEO of Best Practice Medicine, says providing training and practice for medical professionals — including nurses, doctors or EMTs — who treat patients during emergency situations is critical.

“This gives them the chance to practice a situation that they may see once in a career or once every two months,” King said. “The focus is on training for high-risk, low-frequency events. We think that patients deserve to have well-trained medical professionals whether something happens in Ekalaka or in downtown Missoula.”

The training labs include high-tech simulators or medical maninkins that imitate human physiology and anatomy by using high fidelity computerized training tools that can talk, speak, have heartbeats and react to the care provided. The truck includes an emergency room and a ambulance simulation rooms to provide training in different situations.

Because the truck is equipped with cameras and monitors in a separate space, the trainers leave the room while still being able to “talk” on behalf of the patient manikin.

“They are able to engage with the patient — instead of an instructor reading from a script,” he said. “It’s actually happening and they are able to take vitals and blood pressure and get feedback.

The North Valley Hospital Foundation Board has approved raising $100,000 for a broad fund to supplement clinical training at NVH. As part of that, the foundation has set a goal of raising $40,000 during the Whitefish Community Foundation’s Great Fish Challenge for the highest priority of bringing the mobile lab to North Valley and its clinics.

Alan Satterlee, executive director of the North Valley foundation, said the foundation board selected the SIM-MT lab as its focus for the Great Fish because the training has the ultimate goal of making health care providers even more successful while providing the best care for patients.

“This is a program we felt the community could get behind,” he said. “This has an impact on so many people because of supporting what they do, along with providing training not just at the hospital but for our clinical staff. This really impacts all of Montana.”

Satterlee said the mobile lab has made a few stops at North Valley already, but raising funds for the training sessions could bring it here a dozen times per year to work with different departments.

Training opportunities extend beyond doctors and nurses working in the hospital and can involve those staffing clinics, trained EMTs or volunteer firefighters. King say the trucks allow expensive, high-tech training equipment to travel around the state rather than one hospital taking on the cost burden of creating its own permanent training lab.

Standing inside the training lab, King describes a moment often observed when medical staff using the simulator manikins perceive the situation as almost real, in part, because of the high-tech equipment. He says their voices change and they begin reacting as if they were actually in the hospitals emergency room.

“It draws people into the event,” he said. “When people are under a mild degree of stress what they learn goes into their longterm memory and they’re 60 percent more likely to recall it.”

Operated as a public-private partnership, SIM-MT began with a one-time funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The $4.6 million provided allowed for the purchase of the mobile simulation trucks with a suite of high-definition simulation manikins.

SIM-MT contracts with the education company Best Practice Medicine to deliver training from the trucks across the state.

For more information on the North Valle Hospital Foundation, visit For information on SIM-MT, visit

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