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Teaching Medical Simulation to Fellow Healthcare Providers

Dr. Brenda Natal is IMSAL’s first fellow

When Dr. Brenda Natal was a young girl living in Upper Manhattan, she often accompanied her chronically ill mother to the emergency room.  Her family had moved from Puerto Rico when she was 10, and her mother spoke limited English, so the young Dr. Natal was her mother’s translator, advocate and consultant.

“My many years of observing the constant revolving door of the hospital ignited a desire to care for those who are physically, psychologically or emotionally unable to do so for themselves,” Dr. Natal said.

She became an emergency room physician with a commitment to being the kind of medical provider who constantly strives for excellence, providing safe and high quality care to her patients.

“My mother’s experiences, my own and now that of my patients, have definitely contributed to my desire to continue to improve as a health care provider,” said Dr. Natal. 

It’s that same desire to constantly improve that drove Dr. Natal to start a fellowship program at HHC’s Institute of Medical Simulation and Advanced Learning (IMSAL) – and become the program’s first fellow. 

“Most medical students are taught life-saving skills as individuals during a lecture from a textbook or PowerPoint presentation, but the simulation center offers real time training with hands on practice time,” said Dr. Natal, who is also an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Kings County Hospital Center.

As a medical simulation instructor, she now is teaching other doctors, nurses and clinical staff to improve the patient care provided in the emergency room setting that she came to know first hand as a young girl.

IMSAL is HHC’s state-of-the art advanced medical training facility that helps healthcare professionals to improve skills that allow them to function as high-performing clinical teams.  Located on the campus of Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx,  IMSAL replicates emergency rooms, operating rooms and other patient care settings and allows the doctors, nurses and other professionals to learn, practice and master skills in a wide variety of realistic medical scenarios.

“I’m a big supporter of simulation training because it improves patient safety by increasing the communication and cooperation within medical teams,” Dr. Natal said. “We use a popular method called TeamSTEPPS in which the team huddles to strategize and motivate the people within the team.  It is a core component of the medical simulation courses.”

Dr. Natal, 36, became interested in medical simulation during her last year of residency in emergency medicine at Kings County. “I enjoy the education aspect of simulation training and decided that I wanted to teach other medical students at the bedside instead of in a classroom,” she said.

She researched simulation programs and fellowships that already existed but ultimately decided to propose a new fellowship program at HHC.  Unlike other programs, where medical professionals practice medical simulation individually, HHC IMSAL promotes the team approach to learning, communication and delivery of care. 

As part of her fellowship, Dr. Natal not only conducts training at the simulation center in the Bronx but also on-site at Kings County, bringing the training to the facility.  She teaches third and fourth year medical students procedures such as airway intubation, cardiac code team and central venous line placement.  She has helped to teach 400 students, residents, attending physicians and nurses.

“Dr. Natal does an excellent job of teaching the scenarios to our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. By her starting the fellowship and training people, there are now more people on staff who will be able to teach simulation training to others,” said Dr. Stephan Rinnert, Vice Chair of Emergency Medicine at Kings County Hospital.

Dr. Natal earned her Medical Degree from New Jersey Medical School and her Masters in Public Health from State University of New York Downstate.  She is married with two children and lives in New Jersey.  Her husband, Dr. Carlos M. Meletiche, is Deputy Chief of Emergency Medicine at Metropolitan Hospital.

“Simulation training has been a humbling experience for me,” Dr. Natal said. “I have learned proficiencies and interdisciplinary skills for my field of work that I didn’t have before.  I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and communication in providing care.  It’s a privilege to now pass this on to my fellow medical team members.” 


March 2012

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