June 2002 Bulletin

OLC expansion/renovation underway

The Orthopaedic Learning Center includes a custom-designed bioskills lab with 25 surgical workstations.

By Carolyn Rogers

Already a showcase for orthopaedic education, the Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC), located in the AAOS headquarters building in Rosemont, Ill., is currently in the midst of a four-month renovation and expansion project.

Last year, the OLC contracted with a professional compliance company to review its lab operations, policies and procedures as well as identify compliance issues. The current renovation/expansion project is the result of that review. The primary purpose of the expansion is to provide extra space within the OLC to prevent cross-contamination of supplies coming into and out of the learning center and to improve methods of cleaning instruments.

The newly constructed space will allow for a separate specimen receiving area, a "soiled" utility room, and a "clean" prep room. A new entry for specimen receiving—including a power lift—will be created as well. Upgrades include replacement of the HVAC system to improve airflow quality and eliminate "nuisance odors," as well as other equipment upgrades.

Renovation work began on May 13, 2002 and is scheduled to conclude by Sept. 6, 2002. The OLC will have to shut down completely for three weeks—tentatively scheduled for late August/early September. The contractor will schedule construction around all AAOS and Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA) courses, but one industry course has been rebooked and another two were canceled. The $919,845 cost for the OLC expansion/renovation project will be shared equally among AAOS, AANA and the OLC. (The lab was initiated as a $5 million joint project of the Academy and the AANA, and operates as a separate Illinois not-for-profit corporation.)

Successful eight years

The OLC opened its doors in 1994 as a state-of-the-art facility designed specifically for teaching hands-on orthopaedic surgical skills. Some 2,000 to 2,500 surgeons now travel to Rosemont, Ill. every year to attend a course in the learning center, according to Pat Cichlar, RN, director of the OLC. The number of courses held in the center has increased every year since 1995.

The 1997 addition of a larger multipurpose meeting space and a multimedia room attracted numerous clients from various other medical and allied health professions, Cichlar says.

"Since we started working more with other medical groups, and with industry, the number of courses has doubled every year," she says. "Between the Academy, AANA, Sports Medicine, the Hand Society, osteopathic physicians and industry, the OLC is being used almost every weekend outside of holidays, and throughout the week as well. Many of the orthopaedic companies that work with the Academy to support courses also come to the OLC for their own courses."

Clearly, the learning center has a lot to offer. The 5,600-square-foot, custom-designed bioskills lab features 25 workstations equipped for use with cadaveric specimens and anatomical models. Each surgical station has its own audio and visual feeds, water, compressed air, vacuum and electronic hookups. Ceiling-high, multiple screen and video projection in the lab allows for live demonstrations or screening of prerecorded programs. This enables participants to watch the techniques being performed and then perform the skills hands-on themselves.

The OLC’s two-way satellite teleconferencing, microwave and videoconferencing capabilities allow physicians and others at off-site locations to participate in on-site training sessions as well. These features are becoming increasingly popular as medical specialists and others pursue high-quality training options that are more cost effective.

The "gold standard"

Whether you attribute the facility’s popularity to its sophisticated, multifunctional audiovisual system, its proximity to many area medical associations, or its convenient location near O’Hare International Airport, the OLC lab continues to be seen as the "gold standard" among surgical labs, Cichlar says.

Groups of surgeons who wish to build their own labs frequently travel to the OLC—from Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Toronto and elsewhere—solely to see the facility first-hand and learn how to do it "right."

"Whether they’re interested in building four-station labs for resident training or larger labs for physician training within their country, surgeons from around the world know of our facility and come here to base their labs on the OLC," Cichlar says.

For more information on the Orthopaedic Learning Center or upcoming courses, visit the OLC Web site at www.ortholearnctr.org.

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