As a young student, Lee Ann Miller’s interest in creative thinking drew her to the field of psychology. She attended college close to her hometown of Moundsville to study the discipline, and after earning an undergraduate degree, her interest in teaching and learning brought her to West Virginia University to enter the Master of Arts in Educational Psychology program.

The master’s program prepared Lee Ann for instruction, service and research in teaching and learning environments, and following graduation, she joined a grant-funded project in the WVU School of Pharmacy to develop computer-based instruction.

“It was motivating to work with creative teaching methods,” Lee Ann said. “So, when the grant ended, I went back to school to study instructional design and educational strategies, which happened to include simulation.

“The contacts I made through the pharmacy position opened an opportunity for me to work in instructional design and distance education for Health Sciences Center Academic Technologies. I started as a graduate assistant, became a full-time instructional designer, and eventually earned a doctoral degree in educational psychology from WVU.”

After 12 years of full-time work on the Health Sciences Campus, Lee Ann learned of a job posting for a Standardized Patient educator in the WVU Health Sciences David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS), and having served as a Standardized Patient during her education, she was excited for the opportunity.

“While distance education puts physical space between teacher and learner, the Standardized Patient (SP) methodology brings people together,” she said. “I was interested in new ways to teach important healthcare concepts and in helping others learn the SP role as an enjoyable and meaningful employment opportunity.

“Standardized Patients are the highest fidelity learning modality we offer, not only because they involve living persons and actual face-to-face interactions, but also for natural emotion and communication. Learners can benefit from history and physical encounters, communication exercises that include providing patients with difficult and upsetting information, medication reconciliation, ultrasound technique and physical exam instruction. SPs allow for practice in a real-world situation without negative real-world consequences. The feedback learners receive is taken to heart and applied to clinical experiences.”

In her new position, Lee Ann improved scheduling, training and evaluation for the program, and it grew quickly, requiring more staff and a promotion to assistant director of education. While she continues to oversee the Standardized Patient Program, which includes Gynecological Teaching Associates (GTA) and Male Urological Teaching Associates (MUTA) teaching invasive physical exams, Lee Ann also manages faculty development and quality assurance to help instructors become proficient in using simulation pedagogy. In addition, she is honored to serve as a member of the International GTA MUTA Association Board of Directors, a role that allows her to highlight the importance of this patient-centered educational methodology.

“Throughout my studies, simulation was always viewed as one of the most advanced and effective forms of education,” Lee Ann said. “It is very satisfying to be involved in the process of successful teaching and learning at STEPS.

“My favorite part of the job is working with the GTA and MUTA program. The instructors are extremely good at what they do and truly love working with Health Sciences learners. The teaching environment is calm and reassuring, and learners always leave the sessions with a sense of accomplishment.”

Following the inaugural GTA group’s success, Lee Ann expanded the program with help from her colleagues by adding MUTA opportunities, serving more WVU learners and traveling to surrounding institutions. GTA and MUTA encounters utilize highly specialized instructors as models for teaching a patient-centered approach to invasive physical exams.

“Simulation creates a safe space for people to acquire skills, practice those skills and be effectively evaluated,” she said. “Learners come to STEPS to gain a better understanding of procedures, teamwork, communication skills, critical thinking and more. Practitioners can brush up on those skills, learn new techniques and instruments or remediate when things go wrong.

“Patients ultimately benefit by receiving care from competent, successful and considerate providers.”

When learners practice their skills in STEPS, whether they are a first-year student or surgical faculty, they receive a level of service and expertise that is unique among healthcare simulation environments.

“Our fully accredited, modern facility replicates the physical space and materials of local healthcare facilities for realism,” said Lee Ann, who holds Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator-Advanced® (CHSE-A®) certification, a distinction achieved by only 112 individuals in the world. “The support of our institution, our excellent staff and supporters all contribute to STEPS’ success.”

As students begin to explore their own interests and delve deeper into their education at STEPS, Lee Ann recommends that they immerse themselves in opportunity.

“Seek the advice of people who work in professions you’re interested in and follow the path most satisfying to you.

“Let go, suspend disbelief and absorb yourself in the experience...ask questions, engage in the moment, try out new skills, utilize your teammates and reflect deeply on the experience – especially how it will apply to the ‘real world.’”

Photo at Top: Lee Ann Miller (left) provides an orientation session with medical students in the WVU Health Sciences David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS).



CONTACT: Jessica Wilmoth
Senior Communications Specialist
University Relations – Health Sciences