The lab includes a conference room and a spacious, fully equipped operating room with stations for simulated surgeries and other procedures. The centre features a telemedicine system with sophisticated audiovisual equipment, allowing trainees to participate interactively in lectures by off-site instructors and to witness live cases at hospitals, and elsewhere. The system also will be used to broadcast training sessions, including simulated surgeries, to other locations around the world.
"This Learning Lab is one of the building blocks toward fostering the Alexian Advanced Medicine mission", stated Aurelia Ross, Director of the Alexian Center for Medical Innovations. "We wanted to have the right kind of environment through which we can safely deploy new procedures, knowing that we have provided the proper training."
A typical training session at the centre will involve an interactive presentation by an expert speaking in person or from a remote location about a particular procedure. The lecture will be followed by a closed-circuit broadcast of the procedure being performed live. Trainees then can practise the procedure in the skills lab, using either cadavers or other biomaterials.
The operating room is large and open enough for instructors and trainees to circulate easily and observe simulated procedures as they progress. "We expect this design to encourage interaction among the trainees, as well as appropriate supervision", Aurelia Ross stated.
The centre will be available to Alexian Brothers Hospital Network personnel for training in advanced medical procedures and for continuing medical education (CME) courses. The Learning Lab also will be available for rental by medical equipment manufacturers and other outside organisations that are involved in clinical education and have working agreements with Alexian, according to Aurelia Ross.
While the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network has made a significant investment in the development of the Learning Lab, the network also has received strong support from medical equipment suppliers, who have contributed a wide variety of equipment to the centre. The Learning Lab, as Aurelia Ross stated, is an unusual undertaking for a health system, such as Alexian, with a community-hospital focus. "Typically, learning labs are associated with medical schools where a lot of research and medical training occur."
The Alexian Center for Medical Innovations was established in 2001 to ensure early adoption of new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies at Alexian's hospitals. The group works closely with the hospitals, Alexian Brothers Hospital Network's eight clinical Centers of Excellence, and the Alexian Center for Clinical Research to identify and evaluate medical advances and to determine which ones should be earmarked for early adoption by Alexian Brothers Hospital Network. The new Learning Lab will facilitate this process by providing "a way of fast-tracking training for new techniques and technologies", as Ms. Ross put it.
The Alexian Brothers Hospital Network is comprised of four suburban Chicago hospitals, including Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Alexian Brothers Behavioural Health Hospital in Hoffman Estates, and the new Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital in Elk Grove Village.