Anesthesiologist assistant program awarded $70,341 grant

March 8, 2013 - The Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority has awarded Quinnipiac University a $70,341 grant for the construction and development of a fault simulator anesthesia workstation that will be used to educate students in the School of Health Sciences' new graduate anesthesiologist assistant program on the North Haven Campus.

The workstation, which will be used in the two state-of-the-art operating rooms in the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences on the North Haven Campus, will be capable of simulating problems that may occur when delivering anesthesia care to patients undergoing surgery.

"With this unique workstation, our students will be able to demonstrate how they would apply their knowledge to solve problems that occur with patients and life support equipment," said Bill Paulsen, director of the anesthesiologist assistant program and professor of biomedical sciences. "These problems are the same ones they may face when they are working in real operating room settings. This special anesthesia workstation adds a new layer of complexity to the simulation environment, bringing it closer to reality."

Paulsen, who edits the technology section of the "Anesthesiologist Patient Safety Foundation Newsletter," said the while equipment malfunctions are generally uncommon, they range from benign to catastrophic and may affect patient outcomes if not recognized and remedied quickly. The workstation will be able to simulate a range of equipment malfunctions that have been described in the newsletter and the anesthesia literature so that students learn how to recognize and manage both the patient and the anesthesia workstation problems.

Ed O'Connor, dean of the School of Health Sciences, said, "We must prepare individuals with critical thinking skills to enable them to perform correctly in emergency situations," he said. "Because life-saving equipment can fail, fault simulation is integral to our curriculum so that students are prepared to recognize improper operation of machines and monitoring devices, and can take action to resolve the situation while making patient safety the priority thus saving lives."

Paulsen said Quinnipiac plans to make the simulated anesthesia workstation available to practicing anesthesiologists to meet their Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA) requirements.

Quinnipiac's anesthesiologist assistant program, which has been approved by the state, will start classes in May 2013. Anesthesiologist assistants are members of the anesthesia care team supervised by an anesthesiologist who may have responsibility for as many as four operating rooms, each with an anesthetist caring for a patient.

Anesthesiologist assistants participate in providing all types of anesthesia to patients of all ages for a range of surgical procedures, including administering drugs; obtaining vascular access; applying and interpreting monitors; establishing and maintaining airways; and assisting with preoperative assessment.

The anesthesiologist assistants will work closely with students at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, which will start offering classes in August 2013. The medical school, which will focus on primary care, has named St. Vincent's Medical Center of Bridgeport as its primary clinical partner. It also has affiliations with MidState Medical Center of Meriden and Middlesex Hospital of Middletown.