KNOXVILLE (WATE) - New medical residents at UT Medical Center are getting some specialized training at the hospital's Medical Simulation Center. It's not a boot camp in the physical sense, but rigorous training in practically applied medical ability.
Up to 50 medical school graduates each year are put through their paces to learn how to protect patients from a number of serious problems. Those include a blood infection they can get from bacteria originating from a number of places, including their own skin.
It's called Central Line - Associated Blood Infection. The residents learn to place the large lines in a simulated patient known as "sim man."
When someone requires long-term access to medication through an IV, a central line is put in place.
Everything on and around the patient must be sterile to prevent infection, including the doctor's hands.
"Bloodstream infections are probably the single threat in terms of hospital-acquired infections," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Rasnake.
These types of infections are not only dangerous to the patient's health, they also prolong their hospital stays. And according to Dr. Rasnake, they increase medical costs by about $30,000.
Even the tiniest babies in neonatal intensive care units are at risk. "The NICU has sporadic cases of these that arise. They are not common, and they have been consistently below the national average," Dr. Rasnake said.
The number of all central line-associated infections at UT Medical Center used to be slightly above the national average.
"Those lines become infected at a rate of about 2 to 3 per 1,000 lines, days that they are in place," Dr. Rasnake said. "It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't as good as we can be."
After new training protocols were put in place, Dr. Rasnake says the central line infection rate has gone down steadily in the ICU. In fact, he says it's down to zero.
First-year resident Christen Fleming has been through the training and feels confident that her patients will be protected.
"Job one is to keep the patient as safe as possible, no infections, and decreased hospital stays," Fleming said.
Training at the simulation center is just one part of a multi-faceted effort to protect patients.