Friday, May 3, 2013

Hospital reopens historic surgical observation deck


When the MGH Learning Laboratory moved into the Treadwell Library two years ago, it was hailed as the hospital’s newest and most sophisticated hands-on training venue. Simulation-mannequins fill patient beds in the lab’s “Simulation Ward,” offering a variety of conditions and situations on which to practice and refine patient care skills across disciplines. The facility, however, could not accommodate a realistic, full-scale operating room (OR).

On April 25, the lab celebrated the addition of dedicated OR and observation space for the simulation program at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. When the Lunder Building opened in 2011, several White Building ORs were temporarily closed, including those on White 5. This area is now currently reserved for simulation training. One room came with a bonus: a closed surgical observation deck that overlooks the OR and permits non-sterile visitors to watch the operation taking place in the room below. The deck, which had been closed for nearly 30 years, is the only remaining legacy of 10 original surgical observation decks outfitted during construction of the White Building in 1939. Its refurbishment was completed by the Learning Lab in collaboration with OR leadership.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony offered hospital, surgical and perioperative leadership and guests the chance to view a simulated cardiac surgery from the newly renovated deck. Observers included former MGH chiefs of Surgery W. Gerald Austen, MD, and Paul S. Russell, MD, both of whom reminisced about their experiences on the decks during their tenures at the hospital. Cardiac surgeon Jennifer Walker, MD, moderated an overview of the “operation,” faithfully replicated by a full cardiac team working on a realistic beating heart model.

The event also hosted an exhibit of surgical instruments from the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation. In addition, hands-on demonstrations of cutting-edge simulation technology were performed for the attendees.


James Gordon, MD, director of the Learning Lab and chief of the Emergency Department’s Division of Medical Simulation, served as host of the event, which also recognized the lab’s recent accreditation as a Level I Educational Institute by the American College of Surgeons. “This classic new addition to the simulation program opens up enormous opportunities for expanding simulation training in the OR and for better understanding the impact of such work on quality and safety across the institution,” Gordon said. “Being able to perform interprofessional simulation training in an actual operating room provides critical access and context for those undergoing the training and presents powerful new opportunities for direct faculty observation and feedback from the deck.”

For additional information about simulation programming opportunities, email

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