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Innovative Simulation Program at RMU Will Help Doctors and Nurse Practitioners Collaborate to Improve Treatment of Patients with Physical and Mental Illnesses

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pittsburgh, April 7, 2014 – Medical residents, medical students, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students will participate in an interprofessional simulation at Robert Morris University in which actors will portray patients with symptoms of multiple chronic conditions, including psychiatric disorders.

The standardized patient simulation will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at the RISE Center at RMU’s Moon Township campus. Approximately 10 medical residents and students from the Heritage Valley Health System and 10 psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students enrolled in RMU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program will participate in order to hone their clinical and communication skills in addition to learning with and from one another.

The simulation is part of a $923,000 federal grant RMU received last year to expand the number of students enrolled in its DNP program for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. The grant program is formally known as the Access to Interprofessional Mental Health Education (AIME) project. Its goals are to ease the shortage of mental health care providers, educate nurse practitioners to treat patients with multiple chronic health conditions -- including mental illness -- and teach all types of health care providers to work as a team.

Examples of scenarios that participants may face Wednesday include an elderly patient who has had a recent stroke and is presenting with symptoms of depression or a young woman who is presenting with complaints of anxiety who actually has a cardiac condition that is exacerbating her anxiety.

“What we hope to do is to improve the collaboration between the doctors and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction with care,” said Kirstyn Kameg, professor of nursing at RMU and coordinator of the psychiatric DNP program.

The use of actors portraying symptoms of disease was made famous in an episode of “Seinfeld” but is an increasingly popular training method for health care workers, including in medical schools. It affords participants an opportunity to face difficult and realistic situations with patients in a risk-free environment, as well as real-time feedback on their clinical and communication skills. Faculty members craft the scenarios, and the actors are carefully coached to simulate actual patients.

"Interdisciplinary simulation, like this partnership between RMU and Heritage Valley, is the innovation needed to keep us on the forefront of this exciting field," says Stephen Hagberg, program director for the Heritage Valley Health System Family Residency.



Through 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate degree programs across five academic schools, Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa., works to change its students' lives so that they can go out and change the lives of others for the better. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate, nontraditional and online students from 37 states and 37 nations are enrolled at RMU, which sits on 230 scenic acres just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Emphasizing experiential learning, Robert Morris focuses on professional development, service learning, global awareness, undergraduate research, campus leadership, and cultural experiences, all of which are documented on our innovative Student Engagement Transcript. More than 100 clubs and organizations help students to develop leadership skills, network professionally, and meet friends. RMU also has 16 NCAA Division I athletic programs, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse.