Alyssa Rake, M.D., believes medical simulation is intertwined with patient safety.
The new medical director of the Center for Medical Simulation and Innovative Education at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, thinks simulation is the key to anticipating and mitigating threats to patient safety before they happen with real patients.
“Simulation has an essential partnership with patient safety,” says Rake, a critical care physician who joined the hospital staff in February. “It can act at every step in the game. There's tremendous value in working with all of the players that are involved in safety, also the leaders and health care practitioners, bringing them all together to try to figure out what the best steps or solutions are.
“In institutions that do this well, everyone's working together intimately. You can't be on separate pages or work separately.”
Rake joined Johns Hopkins All Children’s from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she was medical director of the Las Madrinas Simulation Center. She was a member of the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine clinical faculty in pediatrics and an attending physician for the pediatric and cardiothoracic intensive units at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
We recently talked with Rake about attracted her to becoming a doctor, how she became interested in simulation and what brought her to Florida.
Why did you want to come to Johns Hopkins All Children’s?
I think the people first and foremost. This is a tremendous simulation program and it's really fun to be part of the next phase of a program that's thriving. It's a really exciting time to be part of this program.
All Children’s is an organization that really values patient safety. That culture was palpable to me when I visited. It's exciting to be a part of it and to help to work to make things better so that we can better care for our patients.
Did you always want to be a doctor?
I always wanted to work with kids. I spent a great deal of time at the doctor and hospital as a gymnast growing up and decided early on I wanted to be a pediatrician.
Why did you gravitate toward pediatrics?
I just love children's innocence. I love the way they think about the world. Watching their development is wonderful, and they have such an amazing ability to heal and be resilient.
You specialize in critical care medicine. How did you choose that path?
I do critical care because it is extremely rewarding to be able to walk children and families through the horrible times and help them to heal. That has different meanings for different patients. The reason that we can do what we do is because of the team, and I love intensive care because you are fully dependent on the team. You have to rely on a team and you have to build a highly functioning team.
Not everyone knows what a critical care specialist does. How do you explain it?
Critical care deals with the sickest patients, the sickest of the sickest and children who wouldn't be able to survive on their own without our intervention. They need some medical support in order to stay alive.
What attracted you to simulation?
What I love is creating the space and the opportunity for health care providers and teams to have those aha! moments; where they work through things and they learn by doing. It transforms their practice and transforms their ability to care as a group for patients. It builds them both personally and professionally, and it really dramatically changes the care of the patient, I believe.
A good simulationist is like a producer. We're sort of behind the curtain or background. There's a lot of planning that goes into building the appropriate curriculum, the appropriate environment and activities to make that happen.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s treats many medically complex patients who need care from their families when they go home. What role can simulation play in training parents and family caregivers?
I think there's lots of opportunities. Simulation offers experiential learning, and that’s what's really unique about it. We can provide training, build skills and give them opportunities to develop both mental and muscle memory, so they can feel comfortable caring for their child in a home setting.