PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Nearly a year after officials from Northern Maine Community College announced news of its establishment, the Presque Isle college on Tuesday unveiled a $160,000 first-of-its kind simulation center for nursing and allied health students and medical professionals in the northern part of the state.

During a ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Aroostook County health care leaders and community members joined with NMCC and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine officials to open the new facility.

The college spent $60,000 to refurbish existing space in the Continuing Education Division in the Edmunds Building to create the simulation center, which houses both the technology and instruction space. A grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation helped NMCC officials purchase two human patient simulators for the new facility. The $100,000 bestowal was used to purchase one pediatric and one adult human patient simulator.

A human patient simulator is a computer-model-driven mannequin. The models simulate things such as vital signs and mirror human responses to procedures such as CPR and intubation.

Instructors can program the model to simulate medical emergencies such as heart attacks, drug interactions and collapsed lungs. Students can react to, treat and learn from the simulated emergency. The simulator allows students to gain experience in treating patients with these conditions while allowing them to do it without harming a real patient.

While students are working on the simulators at NMCC, others in the simulation center will be able to observe and learn from the experience.

Tim Crowley, president of NMCC, was excited about the opening of the center. He pegged it as a “historic day for nursing education in northern Maine and a significant milestone in the five-decade history of our nursing program.”

“We’ve already had students and faculty in there using it, but today we’ll officially open it,” Crowley said. “We do a lot of projects here, but this one has tremendous potential.”

The president noted that the new center would benefit more than just the students who take part in NMCC’s nursing, emergency medical services and medical assisting students. It also will be made available to other health care providers who want to practice old techniques or learn new ones.

“This center will give providers the opportunity to practice or brush-up on procedures and skills that they might not otherwise have a chance to do,” he said.

Betty Kent-Conant, head of NMCC’s nursing and allied health department, said Tuesday that the simulation center likely has potential that officials are not even aware of at this point. She added that another benefit of the center was that it features the Medical Educational Technologies Inc simulators, which are accompanied by the METI Vision System.

This system allows students at NMCC’s off-campus sites, such as in Calais and Houlton, as well as students in Presque Isle who can’t be in the simulator on a given day, to have secure, Web-based access to live broadcasts of what is going on in the simulator by using a campus portal. The portal also allows them access to recorded sessions of procedures.

“Say a student is working in the simulator and using a mannequin to do a procedure,” she said. “Since the session is recorded, the student can go back and see how the simulator responded to their actions and they can see if they did anything wrong and learn from it.”

Kent-Conant has been working for a year with her nursing and allied health faculty members to plan for implementation of the simulation center and the related technology.

Daryl Boucher, nursing instructor and coordinator of NMCC’s emergency medical services program, was equally pleased to see the facility open, saying he believed it would open up new possibilities and learning opportunities for NMCC students and for community health care providers.

The college enrolls an average of 150 students annually in nursing and allied health-related programs, which include emergency medical services and medical assisting. College officials estimate that in addition to these users of the facility, another 200 to 300 health care professionals working throughout the region in hospitals, long-term care facilities, medical offices and on emergency responder teams will take advantage of the technology.

NMCC has been the largest provider of nurses in Aroostook County for more than 40 years. In addition to the Presque Isle campus, the associate degree in nursing program is offered at two sites in Houlton and Calais.