Behind the Scenes: A Look at MCC’s Health Professions Lab

Article written by Lisa Elliot, Director of Marketing & Communications, McLennan Community College, published in the fourth quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine.


In the film and TV production industry, “Scene! That’s a wrap” is a common and expected saying, but do you know it may also be used in the Health Professions program at McLennan Community College (MCC)? In January 2012, MCC opened the Health Professions Simulation (HPS) laboratory in the heart of the Health Professions complex, where thousands of students learn and participate in real-world scenarios to prepare them for exciting careers in healthcare. The facility houses mid- and high-fidelity simulation manikins and equipment to replicate real patient experiences that students may encounter in the healthcare field.

Since 2003, MCC’s Health Professions faculty have used high-fidelity simulation equipment to offer safe, non-threatening, real-world environments for students to practice quality patient care. MCC theatre students sometimes portray sick patients in simulation scenarios, and the HPS lab even offers a “green room”, which serves as a briefing area for the actors. Theatre students enjoy participating in these emergency scenarios for the adrenaline rush and the chance to show off their acting skills.

In order to meet McLennan County’s healthcare demands for skilled professionals, MCC offers a dedicated setting for students as well as community healthcare professionals to learn and practice superior patient care with innovative simulation technology by Gaumard, the manufacturer of the “world’s most advanced patient simulator manikins.”


Meet the Sims

These realistic sim-manikins offer a wide age range of “patients” from infants to elderly. Adult Victoria is the birthing manikin and delivers a neonatal sim-baby named Tory. Adult Susie displays diabetic symptoms, so students may monitor her blood sugar levels using a glucometer. A Skills Development grant in 2010 significantly added to MCC’s sim-family. Besides Victoria, Tory, and Susie, seven other sim-manikins “live” in the HPS lab: adult Hal, five-year-old Hal, one-year-old Hal, newborn Hal, preemie Hal, SimMan, and SimBaby.

Each manikin presents different symptoms and scenarios to challenge students’ clinical and decision-making skills. They are able to “talk” through pre-recorded messaging or a professor in the control room, who responds to student questions.

The adult-sized manikins can also breathe, speak and display all the physiologically appropriate functions like heart and respiratory sounds and pulses in both the left arm and legs. Students may start IVs and infuse fluids as well as practice giving injections and other treatments in a stress-free setting. Each sim-manikin has a monitor for the professor to choose vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse for any scenario.

According to the manufacturer Gaumard, MCC’s sim-manikins were created after years of research. By using simulators instead of human patients, students no longer have to rely on clinical rotations to gain all of their experience. When ready for clinical work, MCC’s Health Profession students are better prepared than ever before.


Tour the Lab

MCC’s HPS laboratory includes two 10-bed simulation wards, one labor and delivery room, one critical care unit, and one trauma area. Control rooms allow MCC professors to observe students through one-way mirrors and facilitate scenarios through the manikins. An audio-visual system records student practicums allowing professors to debrief them later on their performance. Each room in the lab is designed to replicate an emergency room, hospital, clinic, or a personal residence and are equipped with actual medical supplies and equipment, so students get a real-world medical experience.

On the south end of the HPS building, an ambulance bay allows students to practice caring for patients the moment they arrive to the emergency room. An Emergency Medical Services (EMS) simulation apartment teaches Paramedicine students how to extricate patients from their homes in an emergency.

Adjacent to the HPS lab is a special classroom housing a Virtual Human Dissector, which the college secured through a Jobs and Education for Texas (JET) grant. This 3D technology allows students to examine actual organs, tissue and muscles inside the human body as they are projected onto a manikin.


Community Participation

For many years, MCC professors have collaborated with the Waco Family Medicine Residency program to offer interdisciplinary simulation scenarios in the lab with physicians, licensed medical professionals, and students in MCC’s Health Professions and Public Service programs. Community partnerships allow MCC students to not only participate alongside professionals in their fields of study, but also receive helpful advice and mentoring.

For more than 50 years, McLennan Community College’s Health Professions programs have served as a primary educational source for working healthcare professionals in McLennan County. Application of knowledge and skills learned while in a chosen program allow students to contribute positively to patient care by improving and maintaining the health of those they serve.

For more information about MCC’s Health Professions program or the HPS laboratory, contact Glynnis Gaines at or visit Community members are welcome to schedule a tour of any MCC facility by contacting Highlander Central at 254-299-8622.