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Simulation for Pediatric Assessment, Resuscitation and Communication Program

About Norton Children’s Hospital Simulation Program

The Simulation for Pediatric Assessment, Resuscitation and Communication (SPARC) program educates pediatric clinicians in crisis teamwork skills, procedural skills, pediatric physiology and the delivery of difficult news to patients and families. Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and pharmacists participate in these sessions.

Sessions are conducted in multiple locations around the hospital, including the Emergency Department, OR/Recovery, ”Just for Kids”” Critical Care Center and all pediatric floors. A typical session starts with an introduction to the skills that will be needed for that particular situation. Critical events are simulated using one of two high-fidelity patient simulators. After each simulation, participants are debriefed by program faculty and given time to observe their performance via video recording. During this time they reflect on their actions and discuss development strategies to address any issues.

Family interactions are portrayed using standardized patients as part of the Program for the Approach to Complex Encounters (PACE), the communication skills arm of the SPARC program. Here, clinicians learn important techniques for dealing with the delivery of difficult news to patients and their families. Video-assisted debriefing allows participants to deconstruct and reflect on their experiences, teaching them how to approach such conversations more effectively in the future.

Other SPARC activities include the provision of procedural training to pediatric residents and nurses, and ongoing educational outreach to local and regional emergency departments. The SPARC program was one of two recipients of the 2011 Paul Weber Awards for Departmental Excellence in Teaching and has also received awards for innovative simulation research. The SPARC program participates in the INSPIRE Pediatric Simulation Research Collaborative.

Those interested in learning more about the program can contact Aaron W. Calhoun, M.D., at (502) 852-3720 or by e-mail.

The simulation program is funded by the Children’s Hospital Foundation and has received grants from the University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics, WHAS Crusade for Children and the Kentucky Hospital Association.

Current Program Faculty

Senior Advisors
Kimberly A. Boland, M.D.
Vicki L. Montgomery, M.D.


Aaron W. Calhoun, M.D.


Nursing Director
Megan Boone, R.N., MSN, CCRN


Assistant Director of Operations
Megan B. Laniewicz, M.D.


Assistant Director of Continuing Education
Amy L. Hanson, M.D.


Associate Directors of Outreach Education
Melissa B. Porter, M.D.
Amy L. Hanson, M.D.


Associate Director of Communication Skills Education
Eleanor B. Peterson, M.D.


Associate Director of Neonatal Education
Lia Gravari, M.D.


Associate Director of Procedural Education
Keith P. Cross, M.D.


SPARC Unit-based Educational Teams

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Aaron W. Calhoun, M.D.*
    Mary Sandquist, M.D.
  • Nurse simulation educators
    Megan Boone, R.N., MSN, CCRN*
    Jennifer Miller, R.N., MSN, CCRN


Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Lia Gravari, M.D.*
    Lori Devlin-Phinney, D.O.
  • Nurse simulation educators
    Leanna Magner, R.N., BSN
    Gerri Young, R.N., BSN, CPN*


Emergency Department Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Amy L. Hanson, M.D.*
    Frederick H. Warkentine, M.D.
    Megan B. Laniewicz, M.D.
  • Nurse simulation educator
    Shannon Hogan, APRN, CPNP*


4W/7E Inpatient Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educator
    Laura L. Voegele, M.D.*
  • Nurse simulation educator
    Barbara Furey, R.N.*


Fifth Floor Inpatient Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educator
    Laura L. Voegele, M.D.*
  • Nurse Simulation Educator
    Ann Truman, R.N., MSN, CPN*


Surgical Services (O.R., OPS, PACU, Sedation) Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Ryan D. Swain, M.D.*
  • Nurse simulation educators
    Stephanie Nunn, R.N., BSN, CNOR*
    Michele Alexander, R.N.
    Carey Taylor, R.N.
    Kim Flesch, R.N.


Program for the Approach to Complex Encounters (PACE) Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Eleanor B. Peterson, M.D.*
    Aaron W. Calhoun, M.D.
    Melissa Porter, M.D.

Simulation Outreach Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Melissa B. Porter, M.D.*
    Karen L. Orman, M.D.
  • Transport clinician educator
    Pennie Maus-Granholm, R.N., MSN*

Hematology/Oncology Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educator
    Kerry K. McGowan, M.D.*
  • Nurse simulation educators
    Tracy Jennings, R.N.*
    Susan Yancey, R.N.
    Heather Hartlage, R.N.
    Erika Heyer, R.N.
    Susie Bowman, R.N.


Outpatient Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Amber L. Pendleton, M.D.*
    Dan Arnold, M.D.

Procedural Training Educational Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Keith P. Cross, M.D.*
    Laura B. Bishop, M.D.

ECMO Educational Team

  • ECMO specialist educators
    Teka Siebenaler, RRT*
    John Hardin, RRT

Quality Improvement Simulation Team

  • Physician simulation educators
    Mary Sandquist, M.D.*
    Laura L. Voegele, M.D.
    Keith P. Cross, M.D.

*Denotes team leaders

Health Care Professional Participant Testimonials

Simulation for Pediatric Assessment, Resuscitation and Communication (SPARC) program

“I experienced my first real code about three weeks after the mock code. It resembled the simulation very much in the fact that blood pressures were dropping and heart rate began to follow.”

“The environment during the code was very calm and everyone worked as a team, not as individuals. This too represented how we functioned during the simulation.”

“I really thought that the simulation was simply just that, a simulation. I did not realize how close to reality it would really be. Because of this, I felt more prepared in what my role was during the actual code that I experienced.”

“Thank you for providing the opportunity to participate in these events to further not only our knowledge of what we are supposed to do, but also build our confidence that we can do it.”

“I was in a simulation with all physicians earlier this week, and the weakness in the simulation was corrected in this (real) code.”

“I just wanted to let you know that all the ‘crisis simulations’ and the PALS teaching structure is clearly rubbing off on us and making a difference.”

“Today we needed to change out the Quadrox on the circuit in room 3. Along with the crew in the room, we needed one more hand ready to assist with compressions should they be needed. I asked a fellow nurse to come in and help with drawing up some code drugs before we started and to be our sterile-gloved compressor. Just before we started, he said, ‘Let’s clearly define and/or review roles so everyone knows where to stand and what their role is.’ Not only was that a good way to time out and review exactly what, who and in what order we were going to proceed, but it made sure that all bases were covered. We changed out the Quadrox in less than 90 seconds with a less experienced primer, and the child required no interventions. Kudos to the nurse for thinking about it and to the education team for their consistent message that we need clearly defined roles and closed-loop communication.”

“I wanted to start by saying this is the best program I have seen for staff in my 18 years of nursing. I have worked in the NICU and PICU in those years and have never been offered such a great tool. It empowers you to make decisions for your patient, when in the past you just let the physician make all the calls.”

“I just wanted to take this time to thank you for the experience you have given us with simulations. The mock codes give us the experience we need to learn to take roles and to feel more comfortable in a code situation. I am currently in a leadership class to obtain my BSN. In this class we talked about the leadership roles at our jobs. I was the only person in my class who could say that there was no chaos in an emergency situation because of the teamwork we have learned in the simulations and in identifying the leadership role in such situations. Most of my classmates expressed that although they feel that they can be a leader in their place of employment, they are unable to because of management/doctors they work with. I was the only person in my class who felt that leadership was encouraged at my place of employment, and I feel that the simulations and the experience you share with us is what makes that possible.”