Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS). Image credit: UTHSC.
Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS). Image credit: UTHSC.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center opened a new chapter in health care education in Tennessee and beyond on May 11, 2018, when the ribbon was cut on its new $39.7 million Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS).

The 45,000-square-foot building on the Memphis campus is dedicated to improving the quality of health care delivery through education, research, assessment and enhanced clinical skills using standardized patients (actors trained to portray patients), high-fidelity patient simulators (manikins), and virtual reality settings. The building, which took three years to complete, is the only one of its kind in Tennessee and one of only a handful in the country.

The center allows students from the six colleges at UTHSC – Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Medicine, and Pharmacy – to train together in simulation settings to develop their skills in delivering team-based health care, which is the proven model for the highest-quality care today. Using the high-tech manikins, standardized patients, and simulated settings, UTHSC is able to provide state-of-the-art training under the safest conditions possible.

“We are changing the face of health care education,” said Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD. “Everyone who makes up a (health care) team trains as a team from day one.”

Each floor of the three-story building is dedicated to a different aspect of simulation training. The first floor includes skills labs with multiple stations to allow students to focus on clinical skills and assessments. There is also a simulated home environment, where students can practice delivering in-home patient care.

The second floor houses a simulated acute-care setting resembling a hospital environment with patient rooms and a variety of manikins that can be used to simulate everything from surgery to labor and delivery.

The third floor will house the standardized patient program. It includes 24 patient exam rooms, as well as a community pharmacy setting. The 24 patient exam rooms collectively constitute the Robert J. Kaplan, MD, Clinical Skills Center, which was established in the UTHSC College of Medicine in 1999 and has been housed in other locations on campus. Named for Memphis dermatologist Robert J. Kaplan, MD, an alumnus, the Kaplan Center trains future health care professionals in clinical skills, including physical examination, medical history taking, and interpersonal communication skills with standardized patients and manikins.

The lobby of the building is dedicated to Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer for UTHSC, who had the vision for the building and was the primary mover in its development

Chad Epps, MD, an anesthesiologist and leader in simulation education, was recruited to UTHSC in 2016 to be the executive director for the center.

The building is a reflection of a culture at UTHSC that values this type of training, Dr. Epps said. “It’s most definitely a statement to the community that this institution is making a commitment to improving the way health care professionals are trained and the way health care is delivered.” The center is also a resource for continuing education for the area’s health care community.

Dr. Epps has been active in simulation education, research, assessment and center management for more than 10 years. He was president of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, and past chair of the Council on Accreditation of Healthcare Simulation Programs. He is published in the area of simulation-based, interprofessional education, and co-edited the textbook “Defining Excellence in Simulation Programs.”   

Students practice in a team setting. Image credit: CHIPS.
Students practice in a team setting. Image credit: CHIPS.

CHIPS Fast Facts

$39.7 million Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 26 South Dunlap, Memphis. World-Class Facility Grand Opened May 11, 2018.

  • 45,000 square feet
  • 3 floors
  • $6 million in simulation equipment
  • $4.5 million in audio-visual equipment and Technology
  • Low-fidelity and high-fidelity manikins ranging from $15,000 to $220,000 (crying, sweating, breathing, and birthing simulation capabilities)

Simulation settings

  • 24 outpatient clinical rooms
  • 12 individual patient-care areas
  • 4 dentistry suites
  • 1 operating room
  • 1 labor/delivery suite
  • 1 bariatric and rehabilitation suite
  • 1,200 square-foot simulated community pharmacy
  • 1 functional home environment

Other features

  • 6 control rooms (13 control stations)
  • 10 debriefing rooms
  • 5 multipurpose classrooms
  • 14 full-time employees
  • 100+ standardized patients on staff
  • 6 colleges training together (Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy)
  • Main lobby dedicated to Dr. Kennard Brown, UTHSC executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer

Architect - brg3s (Received a 2018 Award of Excellence from AIA (American Institute of Architects) Memphis chapter for CHIPS)

General Contractor - Flintco

Simulation design, training, and program development consultant - SimHealth Group

Finalist: 2018 Building Memphis Award from Memphis Business Journal.

Originally published in Issue 3, 2019 of MT Magazine.