MARQUETTE, Mich.—A new pediatric care simulation room at Northern Michigan University will enhance training for nursing students and mark another step toward the broader goal of establishing a regional Smart Hospital®.

Cathi and John Drake contributed the bulk of funding for the room. It includes a diagnostic center, pediatric crash cart, bed and “new-generation” mannequin representing a 5-year-old child. The mannequin is linked wirelessly to a laptop computer and responds appropriately to medical interventions. It can talk, moan, breathe and even die to effectively mimic a living person. This high-tech environment enhances patient safety by allowing students to hone their skills and build confidence before they enter a clinical setting, reducing the risk of error.

The Drakes previously donated the Benda-Drake Critical Care Simulation Room to honor an NMU nursing student who performed lifesaving CPR and emergency first aid after Cathi collapsed in a Houghton restaurant.

 “I know that first room has been used and is appreciated,” said Cathi. “When I was at Marquette General recently, two or three people who work there and graduated from NMU commented that my last name was familiar and thanked me when they found out why. It makes us feel good to know it’s making a difference.”

John added, “We appreciate the quality of training offered here and wanted to help NMU continue to provide that at the highest level. I’ve been impressed with the stewardship exercised by the nursing program—particularly Julie Dobson [simulation coordinator]. Our money has gone farther than I ever imagined and the simulations are being utilized extensively. We caught wind of the Smart Hospital idea and wanted to help because it’s innovative and would be applicable to a wider audience.”

The NMU School of Nursing is collaborating with Marquette General Health System and the Upper Peninsula Health Education Corporation to establish a Smart Hospital—a virtual world in which state-of-the-art simulation technology is used to replicate a wide range of medical conditions in realistic settings such as obstetrics, pediatrics, intensive care and an operating room. Training would be available to students and health care professionals from across the upper Midwest representing multiple disciplines. The hospital would also be tailored to address distinctive features of rural health care: lower patient volume, fewer acute cases and high rates of transfers to larger hospitals.            

“There are only three in the nation and this would be the first of its kind in the Midwest,” said Kerri Schuiling, director of the nursing school. “We’ve received an $85,000 Rural Health Network Development Grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to develop a business plan and we are going to Mayo’s simulation center to learn about equipment, how to coordinate it and other steps in the process. John and Cathi Drake’s continued desire to pay it forward and help our program has enabled us to pursue the Smart Hospital concept.”

Dobson said today’s students are fortunate to have hands-on experience in a controlled setting. “Simulation is a big deal in health care because there’s not always enough clinical space to provide training. More and more nursing faculty members are requesting it,” she said.

An anonymous gift of $8,000 in seed funding was the first step leading to the pediatric simulation room, with the Drakes contributing the rest.

 “This project shows how modest gifts can serve as the catalyst for major gifts when the right passions are ignited,” said Dave Bammert of the NMU Foundation.

The Drakes are retired owners of a manufacturing business. They spend summers in Hancock and the remainder of the year in Osprey, Fla. Because their latest gift focuses on care for children, they wanted to include their daughters, Lisa and Karen, in naming the new learning environment the Drake Family Pediatric Care Simulation Room. 


Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director