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Iowa college unveils new virtual hospital


​Students in an anatomy and physiology class at Hawkeye Community College use 3D MRI visualization software to explore the bone structure of the human body.

Photo: Hawkeye Community College​

Hawkeye Community College (Iowa) recently unveiled its new “virtual hospital,” showcasing education technology that is unique in the Midwest.

The new virtual hospital and simulation labs use state-of-the-art technology with realistic computerized full-body manikins, 3D imaging software, a medication management system and a web-based electronic medical records system replicating a medical facility.

Hawkeye’s new labs create a broad range of hospital settings including emergency room, intensive care, labor and delivery, exam rooms and many other patient scenarios. With more than 20 manikins, Hawkeye’s simulation labs have the depth and diversity of manikins covering a lifespan: birthing mom, infant, pediatric and all stages of adulthood.

Technology in the field

Hawkeye is the first community college to incorporate 3D body imaging software, BodyViz, into its curriculum. BodyViz software creates 3D images from MRI and CT scans, allowing students to explore the human body by examining body tissue and looking for disorders or diseases. Students learn about internal anatomy with the same technology used by surgeons in planning complicated and delicate procedures.

The college has incorporated the virtual hospital into all areas of its nursing and health science programs’ curriculum.

“This technology will be used in every health science program in training workers, as well as in the continuing education health care professionals need,” said Hawkeye President Linda Allen.

Preparing for rotations

Students studying health care can practice real-life patient scenarios in a controlled environment before they step foot in a hospital or medical facility for their clinical rotation, according to college officials.

“The use of simulation labs provides a very comfortable learning environment for students and gets them excited about what they are studying. They start making the connections of how everything is interrelated to the overall patient care,” said Tracy Elliott, Hawkeye’s virtual hospital coordinator. “It is so rewarding to watch these students not only advance their technical skills but also their soft skills in communication, working as a team, critical thinking and dealing with stressful situations.”

Hawkeye is filling a huge need among employers and the community for skilled healthcare workers. In Iowa, the health career field is expected to grow by 26 percent in the next 10 years, according to Iowa Workforce Development.