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Little Johnny puts paediatric team through their paces

10 May 2012

Health Care

A true-to-life child manikin was the focus of concentrated medical and nursing attention when Southend University Hospital staged an hour-long exercise in emergency care.

Three-year-old 'Little Johnny' presented as a seriously-ill child, transferred to the hospital's Neptune children's unit from A&E and accompanied by his distraught 'mum' - played by a critical care senior nurse.

The highly-sophisticated manikin - on loan from the Postgraduate Medical Institute at Anglia Ruskin University - reacts just as a bona fide patient would. It has a pulse, it blinks and its pupils dilate. It can be cannulated, intraosseus needles can be inserted through the hard cortex of the bone to the softer marrow, and it can turn blue to indicate low oxygen levels.

Prof John Kinnear, consultant anaesthetist and the hospital's director of medical education, acted as simulator operator throughout the exercise, so that Little Johnny's responses reflected the treatment he was receiving.

Julie Dibbens, practice facilitator for paediatrics, who helped set up the scenario, said: "The exercise was a multi-disciplinary team approach to learning and included a paediatric consultant, registrar, junior doctors and all grades of nurses.

"Afterwards, we had a full debriefing with paediatric consultant Dr Anupam Shrivastava to discuss aspects of the scenario and treatment for the particular condition presented."

In this cases, it was diabetic ketoacidosis*, indicated by heavy, laboured ('Kussmauls') breathing as the body attempts to eliminate acids, but the symptoms can be changed for different scenarios.

The in-house training complements that received at the ARU campus at Chelmsford and it is hoped to stage more in-situ simulations on the hospital site, providing the best of both worlds.

Julie added: "They are designed to be as much like real life as possible, which is why we had someone to pose as the distressed mum. We are hoping these sessions will become a regular occurrence.

"Ultimately, this is about improving patient safety by improving the way healthcare teams work."