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Imagineering Medicine: Inside Boston Children’s Hospital’s New SIMPed Program

Step onto the 18th floor of 3 Blackfan circle, past the brightly colored reception area, and you’ll find a typical hospital corridor.


SIMPed OR, courtesy of Boston Children’s Hospital

You’ll hear the familiar beeps from ICU monitoring equipment echo across the polished linoleum floor. Pass the nurses station and you’ll find a bright and spotless OR, cooled and ready for a scheduled cardiac surgery.

There is only one thing that differentiates this hallway from any other in the Longwood medical area: none of the patients are real.

This is the Boston Children’s Hospital Simulation (SIM) Center, a space where medicine and theater unite to help clinicians rehearse for difficult pediatric procedures. Inspired by traditional stagecraft, the SIMPeds staff works to produce clinical experiences for medical teams in their fully functional operating room and ICU. Behind a door marked “storage closet” a high-tech control center allows behind-the-scenes technicians to operate not only computer-controlled mannequins, but also lights, sounds, and special effects in each of the simulation rooms.

Control room BCH

SIMPed control room, courtesy of Boston Children’s Hospital

SIMPeds cut no corners in their mission to make the facility as authentic as possible. “The suspension of disbelief is absolutely critical,” says Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the SIMPeds program. “We can give our clinicians an experience nearly indistinguishable from reality.”

The SIMPed center is unique in its focus on simulating the entire healthcare journey, not just a patient’s stay in the hospital. Family caregivers can also utilize the center, which is outfitted with a simulated nursery, to prepare for administering care at home. “Simulation can help parents prepare for hospital discharge, teach them to run a home ventilator or help children with behavioral conditions like autism anticipate hospital visits and medical procedures,” says Weinstock.

SIMPed Nursery

SIMPed Nursery, photo courtesy of Boston Children’s Hospital

The authentic feel of the center is made possible in part by The SIM InventorSpace, a facility down the street where a team trained in entertainment robotics, engineering, design and special effects 3D print a variety of high-fidelity trainers and mannequins. In addition to generic plug-and-play trainers, the team is able to use MRI scans to 3D print patient-specific anatomy in preparation for difficult individual surgeries.

Weinstock’s hope is that the SIM Center and SIM InventorSpace will animate practice in such a way that allow clinicians to “experience the worst through SIM, so the worst never happens.”

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