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Petr Štourač: SIMU has exceeded our expectations

The Simulation Centre of the MU Faculty of Medicine is one of Masaryk University’s cutting-edge projects. Future doctors and health care workers use SIMU to practise both common procedures and emergencies.

Petr Štourač, head of the Department of Simulation Medicine.

Two years ago, the eastern end of the Bohunice campus was transformed into a home for a project that is unique in Europe. A five-storey building has been constructed, housing an entire simulation hospital. The nearly one billion CZK investment has brought a fundamental integration of simulation methods into the education of future doctors, dentists and other health professionals.

SIMU is built on collaboration. Academic, technical and operational tasks are carried out by teams from two departments of the Faculty of Medicine. These teams are behind innovative teaching and training, complementing each other and creating one of the broadest and best-trained professional groups in their field.

One of those who were part of the SIMU project from the beginning and dared to push their vision of modernising medical education in the new millennium is Petr Štourač, head of the Department of Simulation Medicine and Vice-Dean for Development and Studies in General Medicine at the MU Faculty of Medicine. Before today’s ceremonial presentation of SIMU, he gave an interview to M Magazine.

What have the four academic semesters revealed about SIMU?
That the SIMU concept is sound and has been well prepared. The important thing was that it was completed on schedule and we were thus able to start teaching the intended target group – that is medical students – on time. In the end, it turned out that we were so well prepared that we were able to train far more students than we had originally anticipated. And that is even though we were quite ambitious regarding the expected project’s throughput.

So how many students went through the learning centre?
To date, we’ve had over five thousand individual students – that means those who have trained in SIMU as part of their main study programmes, general medicine and dentistry. But since the Faculty of Medicine is also involved in the training and education of other medical specialisations, paramedics and students of midwifery, for instance, can also receive training at SIMU. And we also taught first aid to students of the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Do you sometimes serve other disciplines, or is SIMU only there to meet the needs of the Faculty of Medicine?
We are often approached by other organisations with requests for training at SIMU, but we stick to the original idea that the dominant activity at SIMU must consist in the teaching of the general medicine and dentistry degree programmes. This is as it should be and it is in line with the funding conditions. Nevertheless, where it makes sense to us, we are prepared to arrange additional courses, provided they are related to medical education.

What is the greatest benefit of SIMU as demonstrated in practical teaching?
That it is guaranteed that a student of any of the aforementioned main degree programmes knows what they are going to learn in each year of study and that they actually learn it and, at the end, their study progress is objectively evaluated. That is a great benefit. Another benefit consists in the implementation of all types of simulation methods. I am aware of no medical school in the world that incorporates simulation techniques so comprehensively into the curriculum as we do here.

When planning and building the centre, you knew that SIMU would become a cutting-edge facility and push the teaching of medicine to the next level. Is it still the case? Do you still feel good about what SIMU has achieved?
I would say I feel even better about SIMU now than I did at the beginning. Of course, we had a vision of what it would become, but as project manager, I also knew we would have to avoid many pitfalls on the way to realising that vision. The first two years have shown that the vision has not only been achieved, but has exceeded our expectations, so I feel even better about that.

Can SIMU be developed even further?
Certainly, in many areas. One of the biggest challenges ahead of us is to move into science and research. The newly accredited Healthcare Simulation doctoral degree programme will help us to do just that. We are now actually in the final stages of the project. We will now be completing it and also implementing some of the activities planned for the more advanced project stages that will be conducted in the upcoming academic years. These include development in paediatrics and the teaching of neurosurgery and orthopaedics. In any case, SIMU has already brought benefits to students of all years of study at the Faculty of Medicine – except, of course, the sixth year when medical students do their internships in actual hospitals.

Did you encounter any technical problems during the four academic semesters?
In a project as large as SIMU, we don’t speak about problems, we call them challenges. Thanks to our unique team of technicians, we were able to satisfactorily resolve all issues. In the best-equipped simulation centre in Europe, it is a normal occurrence that things break or malfunction. The important thing is that we are prepared for it, we can deal with it effectively and it doesn’t affect teaching.

The construction of the Simulation Centre forms the main part of the project designated MU Strategic Investment in Education – SIMU+ funded by the Operational Programme Research, Development and Education (OP RDE).