FARGO - The health professions involve hands-on skills that can't be learned properly from a textbook or merely by watching. Yet much of health education takes place in traditional classrooms.

But more hands-on learning opportunities will be available when a new health care simulation training center opens in space that formerly housed part of the children's hospital at Sanford Health's Broadway Medical Center.

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In partnership with Tri-College University, Sanford has invested $5 million in the training center, which will use sophisticated mannequins and other technologies to train medical students, nursing students, pharmacy students and students of other allied health professions, such as X-ray technicians and respiratory therapists.

Once it opens in 2020, the center will provide hands-on training for students at North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia College, M State and the North Dakota State College of Science.

"This new training facility will not only allow us to support our area universities, but also help us train our workforce for everything from everyday medical treatment to situations they will rarely encounter like complicated cases including loss of limbs or severe burns," said Nate White, president of Sanford Fargo. "This is crucial when our area faces a shortage of health care workers."

William Craft, president of Concordia College, said Fargo-Moorhead is a "place where higher education and health care are signatures" and the two combine through the training center.

"It will give them access to state-of-the-art technology," as well as realistic exposure to the complexity of working as collaborative members of caregiving teams, he said.

The simulation training center will occupy 17,000 square feet of fourth-floor space and will include training spaces for inpatient care, outpatient care, trauma, operating room and intensive care, as well as classroom space and debriefing rooms.

Procedures will be video-recorded to provide instant feedback and evaluation of students' performance in learning procedures, such as giving patients injections, inserting an intravenous line or airway intubation to administer drugs.

"It's a controlled environment," said John Richman, president of the North Dakota State College of Science. "It's a safe environment. It's an environment where they can make mistakes. It's an environment where they can build skills."

Dr. Scott Engum, a Sanford pediatric surgeon who was involved in creating the simulation training center, said it's crucial for medical professionals - not just students - to keep their skills sharp through practice.

"How good would the Bison football team be if they learned sitting on the bleachers?" he said. Because the training center is located within a real hospital, students will know from the moment they enter the medical center that it is important to be professional, Engum said.

"They're going to learn from it and it's not going to cost anybody their life" or livelihood, he added. "This is a rare opportunity," but will be a challenge to sustain. "We can be a destination location for health care education."

To add another realistic element, preparations are being made to use drama students acting as patients.

"We already are working with theater departments," said Tim Flakoll, provost of Tri-College University, a consortium of local colleges and universities. "That's kind of a cross-pollination of academics."