UPMC WISER: Winter Institute for Simulation Education and Research

The Winter Institute for Simulation Education and Research (also known as WISER) is a world class multidisciplinary healthcare simulation training and research facility out of UPMC. An institute of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the WISER Simulation Center’s mission is to conduct research and training programs utilizing clinical simulation-based education to increase patient safety at the UPMC and the school’s affiliates. The UPMC WISER facility is directed by Dr. Paul Phrampus, MD, who is also a professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine.

In addition to improving patient safety, the facility is dedicated to the advancement of healthcare simulation and education to promote education, mentorship, systems design and research to enhance the high quality delivery of healthcare. To achieve this outcome, WISER works to enhance patient safety through state of the art educational and assessment methodologies and techniques. The facility also creates innovative education programs for healthcare providers ranging from students through practicing professionals.


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Another WISER objective is to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery through incorporation of modern educational and assessment methods through our integration with the UPMC Health System. One way the facility works to achieve this is to research the use of healthcare simulation and other instructional and assessment methods by providing infrastructure and serving as a collaborative partner. Together, these goals help WISER contribute to the development, education and mentorship of future generations of healthcare simulation educators and researchers interested in medical simulation programs.

WISER History

In the early 1990s, Dr. Peter Winter, chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, realized the importance of establishing a simulation center for training department personnel. The simulator obtained for this purpose was essentially the only one available at the time and came at the cost of over $250,000. The department obtained computers and other additional equipment, and in 1994 the simulation centre was launched on the third floor of Montefiore University Hospital.

Arrangements were made to simulate an operating room, an ICU bed, or a bay in the emergency department. Anesthesia machines, monitors, and ventilators completed the picture. Over the next four years, a number of faculty members worked to develop a broad range of curricula, using performance evaluations including Internet, CD-ROM, Palm-based, and digital video-based components.


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In 1996, Drs. Renæ Gonzales (director from 1994-1996) and John Schaefer (director 1996 – 2005) designed and patented a difficult-airway simulator that was more functional, affordable, and portable than the full-sized version. A Texas company, Medical Plastics Laboratory, later acquired by the Laerdal Corporation, undertook commercial manufacture of this new simulator (AirMan) that has also been incorporated into a “full-scale” human simulator (SimMan).

WISER Clinical Simulation Courses

Simulation education courses at WISER can be browsed by participant type, CME courses or by department. Departments include anesthesiology, cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, children’s hospital, critical care medicine, biological sciences, advanced practice providers, pharmacy, internal medicine, pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine, emergency medicine, graduate nursing, undergraduate nursing, nursing CME, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services, pediatrics, rehabilitation, psychology, radiology, dental medicine and surgery. Each department offers a number of medical simulation courses to increase knowledge and understanding pertaining to that area of study.

WISER presents a number of courses for simulation educators and administrators as well. These courses are designed to help these simulation professionals take their simulation training to the next level. These courses include:

  • iSim
  • Designing or Enhancing Your Simulation Center
  • Facilitator Training Series: Introduction to Debriefing
  • How to Run a Successful Simulation Center
  • Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist Training Program (TechSim)

The iSim course is a two-day internationally renowned program, created in collaborative effort between WISER at the University of Pittsburgh and the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education at the University of Miami. Designed as an introduction to fundamental skills and abilities for delivering simulation-based healthcare education through a variety of techniques and technologies, the program emphasizes hands-on activities and active participation. This is designed to maximize simulation-based instruction skill acquisition. Class group sizes are kept small to allow for maximum participation. The primary audience for this course are healthcare educators wishing to improve their skills as instructors in simulation education.

The “Designing or Enhancing Your Simulation Center” one-day course is designed to assist those individuals or centers who are interested in designing new or updating existing simulation centers. This is an eight topic course that will guide the participants, step-by-step, through the process of identifying their training needs and designing a world class simulation center to meet those needs. Specific topics for this course include:

  • Introduction to WISER and Course Overview
  • Identifying Your Center’s Training Missions
  • Blueprints to Build Out, Designing Your Center
  • Identifying your Center’s Audio and Video Needs
  • Administrative Considerations
  • Job Descriptions
  • Creating Environments
  • Additional Tips for Success

The “Facilitator Training Series: Introduction to Debriefing” course is designed to provide facilitators with an introduction to a variety of facilitation and debriefing techniques. Through a mixture of didactics and hands-on activities, participants will gain the skills required to become a more effective facilitator.

A two-day program, the “How to Run a Successful Simulation Center” course teaches best practices associated with the operations of a simulation center. Key operational, administrative and technological elements of a successful simulation center will be reviewed. Topics such as creating budgets, staff considerations, daily operations, course development and simulator programming will be discussed. Interactive exercises will allow participants to practice what they learned during course sessions. Course topics include:

  • Budgets and effective billing models
  • Staffing considerations and job descriptions
  • Organizational charts and approval processes
  • Technology considerations and management
  • Daily operations of the simulation center
  • Course development
  • Schedule considerations
  • Simulator programming forms
  • Repair and maintenance of equipment

Lastly, the Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist Training Program (TechSim) course training programs are designed to educate healthcare simulation operations specialists (HSOS) on the key tasks associated with the daily operations and maintenance of a simulation center.
TechSim consists of three course options. TechSim Online (OL), TechSim Onsite (OS) and TechSim Preview (PREV). Each course is mapped to the SSiH CHSOS Examination Blueprint.

TechSim Online offers 15 CPD credits for those already CHSOS or CHSE certified. TechSim OS is eligible for 14 CPD credits for those already CHSOS or CHSE certified. TechSim Online consists of over 40 detailed topics with lectures, content, videos and forms related to the job functionality of the healthcare simulation operations specialist.

TechSim Onsite is designed for those that want access to the online content and interested in spending 1 1/2 days on site at WISER to gain hands-on experiences in one of the world’s busiest simulation centers. The program provides learners with access to some modules in the TechSim OL and TechSim OS courses. Topics include:



  • Concepts in Healthcare
  • Healthcare Simulation Practices
  • Roles and Responsibilities of Simulation Operations Specialist
  • Understanding Simulation Terminology
  • Supply and Inventory Management
  • Repair and Maintenance
  • Audio Visual Considerations
  • IT ConsiderationsHey
  • The Simulation Operations Specialist Role in Curriculum Development Process
  • Role of the Simulation Operations Specialist in Debriefing
  • Calendar Management
  • Scenario Design
  • Certification Considerations

WISER Visiting Scholars Programs

There are currently three WISER visiting scholars programs: fellowship, preceptorship and professional development. The fellowship program is designed for individuals that would like to participate in a one to two year curriculum that includes the WISER Foundation, electives, workshops, course observations and a scholarly project. A variety of topics will be addressed by subject matter experts including but not limited to simulation center operations, informational technology, administration and curriculum development.

During the fellowship program, WISER provides support with project conceptualization and completion, and projects often include research, curriculum development or a combination of topics. By working closely with WISER’s experts, program participants will receive personalized attention and will integrate into WISER’s network of simulation education expertise.

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The preceptorship program is designed for individuals that would like to participate in a structured one to 11 month curriculum that includes the WISER Foundation, electives, workshops and course observations. Similarly, during this program a variety of topics will be addressed by subject matter experts including but not limited to simulation center operations, informational technology, administration and curriculum development.

The professional development program is meant for individuals that would like to participate in a structured curriculum that includes the WISER Foundation, electives and course observations. A variety of topics will also be addressed by subject matter experts during this program. Topics may include simulation center operations, informational technology, administration and curriculum development as well. Learn more on the WISER website or read these articles below.

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