If you weren’t tipped off in advance, you might think that doctors, nurses, med students and others bustling around Tory were saving a real, live newborn in the Simulation Lab in the ICE House at Gundersen Health System’s main campus in La Crosse.
Tory might as well be alive, because they treat her ailments with the same urgency and care as they would a baby as they hone their skills for procedures they must master.
CMN Hospitals donated Tory (who can become a male with a quick change of, uh, apparatus) to the Sim Lab because the previous infant model was 6 years old, in failing health and about as realistic as the hard, plastic CPR dummies used in many first aid classes.
“When you’re working in health care and working in simulations, you’re well past the training stage,” ICE House manager Sheila Chapel said Tuesday as Gundersen staffers demonstrated Tory and a toddler-sized pediatric simulator named Hank, which Children’s Miracle Network also donated.
Best place to learn from mistakes
“You have to have the realistic situations to do what they do,” Chapel said. “If they make a mistake, they can just start over. This is the place to make a mistake and learn from it.”
Tory, which weighs a realistic 8 pounds, has lifelike features such as a pulse on its head and umbilical cord, as well as all the other right places; a chest that rises and falls as if breathing; arms and legs that replicate the movements of an infant; a mouth that puckers as its lips move; eyelids that open and close; eyes that can be checked for alertness; heart sounds that imitate conditions such as murmurs and other ailments; electrodes to practice procedures calling for such monitoring; a realistic throat on which they can practice intubation; and tissue that allows nurses to insert IVs, among other common treatments.
Monitoring devices also keep track of heartbeat, oxygen and other bodily functions as doctors, nurses and staffers treat the simulator for conditions they might encounter on duty.
Asked whether the simulator eats, Chapel laughed and said, “No, and it doesn’t poop — that is the best part.”
The team of Gundersen staffers who demonstrated on Tory were told that she had had been delivered by emergency cesarean section, which left her with a low score on the Apgar scale that is used to assess newborns.
They worked quickly and calmly under crowded conditions, their motions an efficient byproduct of teamwork and knowledge of their roles.
The simulators are portable, allowing nurses and paramedics aboard MedLink Air to take them aloft and practice procedures under realistic conditions, as well as letting Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance crews perfect their skills on rides that might include navigating the crater-like potholes of spring, Chapel said.
The staffers treated Hank, who also can be converted to a female tot, for a 12-inch laceration suffered during a scenario in which he was hit by a propeller blade on a boat on the Mississippi River. The simulators don’t bleed, but the emergency team still had to perform all sorts of procedures on Hank before he could be sent for surgery.
In addition to monitoring blood pressure and inserting IVs, team members had to bag and intubate Hank, as well as take off a neck brace installed in the field and put it back on, maintain his heart rate and oxygen and call for an X-ray and other tests, among other things.
The previous simulator had reached its normal service expectancy, Chapel said, so the Sim Lab had sought a $20,000 grant from CMN to be used toward buying two new ones. She was pleasantly surprised CMN donated $87,000 instead to pay for Tory and Hank.
The steering committee for CMN, a service of the Gundersen Medical Foundation, opted to pony up the larger amount — it probably could cover a year’s tuition by the time Tory reaches college age — because of the educational potential, said CMN director Heather Gilles.
“For us, the amount of impact for the dollars made it a yes all around for the committee,” said Gilles, who noted that CMN contributes to such services once patient needs are met.
“We like to touch students and staff and nurses and doctors,” she said.
Sim Lab hosts 8,500 people
The Simulation Lab hosted educational events and training for more than 8,500 people last year, including 700 high school students, Chapel said.
Among the pediatric training sessions at Gundersen are certification courses such such as Neonatal Resuscitation Program and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.
“It’s amazing the need and what we can do. We’re small but mighty,” Chapel said of the compact lab setting on the lower level of the ICE House, which was the ice house for the Gund Brewery in the late 1800s and early 1900s whose acronym for its name as the Integrated Center for Education pays homage to its historical origin.
Six years ago, the Sim Lab began with just surgical procedures but has expanded to include birthing simulations, which have been used 3,500 times, and other services and procedures, including training hospital personnel about helping people with advance directives.
CMN steering committee member Joan Meyers of Coon Valley, who endured complications after her water broke at 23 weeks and whose son was delivered via cesarean section at 28 weeks nearly 18 years ago, was impressed with the new simulators.
“He was born infected, with many infections, including seven at one time,” she said, adding that he had his first surgery when he was 6 days old and had a total of five during his 81 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Soon to be 18, Jake is a senior at Onalaska Luther High School and plans to attend Western Technical College, Meyers said.
As for the simulators, Meyers said, “I thought they were amazing. Could anything be more realistic?”
Health care careers that pay the most
Few industries are expected to grow as fast as the healthcare sector over the next 10 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment in all healthcare occupations will grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, adding about 2.3 million new jobs.
Moreover, at $62,610, the median annual wage for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations was well over the median wage for all U.S. occupations in 2015. Within the industry, though, there is wide disparity in how much different jobs pay. For instance, nursing assistants and orderlies make $25,710 on average, while physicians and surgeons average $187,200 or more.
With that in mind, research site CareerTrends used data from the BLS to find the jobs in the healthcare industry with the highest average annual salary in 2015. Note that salary figures are averaged across three general sectors within the overarching healthcare industry: general health practitioners offices, home health care services, and disability and mental health facilities. Employment figures are summed across each of these sectors.
In general, specialized medical fields like anesthesiology, podiatry and optometry offer high-paying career tracks. Although medical professions dominate the ranking, not every top-paying job requires an M.D. Professions like lawyers and financial managers also make the cut.
Note: Job descriptions are sourced (with minor edits) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
#50. Life, physical and social science occupations
Average annual salary: $76,003
Total employed: 19,450
#49. Clinical psychologists
Average annual salary: $76,283
Total employed: 17,450
Job description: Diagnose and treat mental disorders; learning disabilities; and cognitive, behavioral and emotional problems, using individual, child, family and group therapies. May design and implement behavior modification programs.
#48. Specialist dentists
Average annual salary: $76,780
Total employed: Not reported
#47. Middle and high school administrators
Average annual salary: $76,940
Total employed: 80
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate the academic, administrative or auxiliary activities of public or private elementary or secondary level schools.
#46. Occupational therapists
Average annual salary: $77,270
Total employed: 40,790
Job description: Assess, plan, organize and participate in rehabilitative programs that help build or restore vocational, homemaking and daily living skills, as well as general independence, to persons with disabilities or developmental delays.
#45. Sales supervisors
Average annual salary: $77,600
Total employed: 80
Job description: Directly supervise and coordinate activities of sales workers other than retail sales workers. May perform duties such as budgeting, accounting and personnel work, in addition to supervisory duties.
Average annual salary: $77,790
Total employed: 3,250
Job description: Assess and treat persons with hearing and related disorders. May fit hearing aids and provide auditory training. May perform research related to hearing problems.
#43. Management analysts
Average annual salary: $77,863
Total employed: 1,050
Job description: Conduct organizational studies and evaluations, design systems and procedures, conduct work simplification and measurement studies and prepare operations and procedures manuals to assist management in operating more efficiently and effectively. Includes program analysts and management consultants.
Average annual salary: $78,050
Total employed: 29,550
Job description: Assess, treat and care for patients by manipulation of spine and musculoskeletal system. May provide spinal adjustment or address sacral or pelvic misalignment.
#41. Computer programmers
Average annual salary: $80,020
Total employed: 70
Job description: Create, modify and test the code, forms and script that allow computer applications to run. Work from specifications drawn up by software developers or other individuals. May assist software developers by analyzing user needs and designing software solutions. May develop and write computer programs to store, locate and retrieve specific documents, data and information.
#40. Administration services managers
Average annual salary: $80,586
Total employed: 4,370
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate one or more administrative services of an organization, such as records and information management, mail distribution, facilities planning and maintenance, custodial operations and other office support services.
#39. Compensation and benefits managers
Average annual salary: $84,170
Total employed: 40
#38. Nuclear medicine technologists
Average annual salary: $84,590
Total employed: 40
Job description: Prepare, administer and measure radioactive isotopes in therapeutic, diagnostic and tracer studies using a variety of radioisotope equipment. Prepare stock solutions of radioactive materials and calculate doses to be administered by radiologists. Subject patients to radiation. Execute blood volume, red cell survival and fat absorption studies following standard laboratory techniques.
#37. Public service managers
Average annual salary: $84,603
Total employed: 1,130
#36. Physical therapists
Average annual salary: $86,603
Total employed: 101,370
Job description: Assess, plan, organize and participate in rehabilitative programs that improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength and improve or correct disabling conditions resulting from disease or injury.
#35. Speech-language pathologists
Average annual salary: $87,370
Total employed: 32,950
Job description: Assess and treat persons with speech, language, voice and fluency disorders. May select alternative communication systems and teach their use. May perform research related to speech and language problems.
#34. Training managers
Average annual salary: $89,123
Total employed: 210
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate the training and development activities and staff of an organization.
#33. Human resources managers
Average annual salary: $89,563
Total employed: 1,340
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate human resources activities and staff of an organization.
#32. Software engineer
Average annual salary: $90,180
Total employed: 350
Job description: Develop, create and modify general computer applications software or specialized utility programs. Analyze user needs and develop software solutions. Design software or customize software for client use with the aim of optimizing operational efficiency. May analyze and design databases within an application area, working individually or coordinating database development as part of a team. May supervise computer programmers.
#31. Nurse midwives
Average annual salary: $90,550
Total employed: 730
#30. Medical managers
Average annual salary: $91,466
Total employed: 32,300
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate medical and health services in hospitals, clinics, managed care organizations, public health agencies or similar organizations.
Average annual salary: $93,290
Total employed: 1,590
#28. Management occupations
Average annual salary: $93,926
Total employed: 77,780
#27. Systems software engineers
Average annual salary: $94,260
Total employed: 100
#26. Public relations and fundraising managers
Average annual salary: $96,883
Total employed: 220
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate activities designed to create or maintain a favorable public image or raise issue awareness for their organization or client; or if engaged in fundraising, plan, direct or coordinate activities to solicit and maintain funds for special projects or nonprofit organizations.
#25. Nurse practitioners
Average annual salary: $97,280
Total employed: 7,600
Job description: Diagnose and treat acute, episodic or chronic illness, independently or as part of a healthcare team. May focus on health promotion and disease prevention. May order, perform or interpret diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays. May prescribe medication. Must be registered nurses who have specialized graduate education.
#24. Physician assistants
Average annual salary: $97,396
Total employed: 1,560
Job description: Provide healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician. Conduct complete physicals, provide treatment and counsel patients. May, in some cases, prescribe medication. Must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants.
#23. Legal occupations
Average annual salary: $98,250
Total employed: 40
Average annual salary: $98,250
Total employed: 40
Job description: Represent clients in criminal and civil litigation and other legal proceedings, draw up legal documents or manage or advise clients on legal transactions. May specialize in a single area or may practice broadly in many areas of law.
#21. General and operationss managers
Average annual salary: $99,760
Total employed: 21,520
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations and planning the use of materials and human resources, but are too diverse and general in nature to be classified in any one functional area of management or administration, such as personnel, purchasing or administrative services.
#20. Marketing managers
Average annual salary: $104,973
Total employed: 580
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate marketing policies and programs, such as determining the demand for products and services offered by a firm and its competitors, and identify potential customers. Develop pricing strategies with the goal of maximizing the firm's profits or share of the market while ensuring the firm's customers are satisfied. Oversee product development or monitor trends that indicate the need for new products and services.
#19. Financial managers
Average annual salary: $110,260
Total employed: 2,580
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate accounting, investing, banking, insurance, securities and other financial activities of a branch, office or department of an establishment.
#18. Computer and IT managers
Average annual salary: $110,940
Total employed: 400
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate activities in such fields as electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis and computer programming.
Average annual salary: $112,246
Total employed: 1,760
Job description: Dispense drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and provide information to patients about medications and their use. May advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosage, interactions and side effects of medications.
Average annual salary: $112,530
Total employed: 20,430
Job description: Diagnose, manage and treat conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system. Examine eyes and visual system, diagnose problems or impairments, prescribe corrective lenses and provide treatment. May prescribe therapeutic drugs to treat specific eye conditions.
#15. Sales managers
Average annual salary: $114,050
Total employed: 400
Job description: Plan, direct or coordinate the actual distribution or movement of a product or service to the customer. Coordinate sales distribution by establishing sales territories, quotas and goals and establish training programs for sales representatives. Analyze sales statistics gathered by staff to determine sales potential and inventory requirements and monitor the preferences of customers.
Average annual salary: $118,620
Total employed: Not reported
Job description: Conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.
#13. Medical scientists
Average annual salary: $118,760
Total employed: 60
#12. Nurse anesthetists
Average annual salary: $129,090
Total employed: 1,470
Average annual salary: $133,650
Total employed: 6,720
Job description: Diagnose and treat diseases and deformities of the human foot.
Average annual salary: $147,990
Total employed: 40
Job description: Diagnose, treat and help prevent children's diseases and injuries.
#9. Chief executives
Average annual salary: $150,416
Total employed: 3,660
Job description: Determine and formulate policies and provide overall direction of companies or private and public sector organizations within guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body. Plan, direct or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.
Average annual salary: $161,640
Total employed: 330
Job description: Examine, diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and malformations of teeth and gums. May treat diseases of nerve, pulp and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. May fit dental appliances or provide preventive care.
#7. General practitioners
Average annual salary: $179,816
Total employed: 1,420
Job description: Diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases and injuries that commonly occur in the general population. May refer patients to specialists when needed for further diagnosis or treatment.
#6. Physicians and surgeons
Average annual salary: $188,263
Total employed: 2,510
Average annual salary: $202,510
Total employed: 160
Job description: Treat diseases, injuries and deformities by invasive, minimally-invasive or non-invasive surgical methods, such as using instruments, appliances or by manual manipulation.
Average annual salary: $205,723
Total employed: 1,510
Job description: Diagnose, treat and help prevent disorders of the mind.
Average annual salary: $205,865
Total employed: 300
Job description: Diagnose and provide non-surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. Provide care mainly for adults who have a wide range of problems associated with the internal organs.
Average annual salary: $209,350
Total employed: 70
Job description: Examine, diagnose and treat dental malocclusions and oral cavity anomalies. Design and fabricate appliances to realign teeth and jaws to produce and maintain normal function and to improve appearance.
Average annual salary: $219,810
Total employed: 230
Job description: Administer anesthetics prior to, during or after surgery or other medical procedures.
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