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£120K patient simulator will help improve care and training

05 April 2016

Health Care

A brand new simulation training centre for staff at Southend University Hospital has just been opened by the Mayor of Southend, which is at the forefront of teaching for new and existing medical staff.

The £120,000 centre is designed to look and feel like a typical patient bay, complete with a sophisticated mannequin that can be used to stage any medical scenario for training and better understanding.

Gillian Donohue, a lecturer practitioner who is part of the exciting new centre, said: "Essentially it is like a flight simulator for pilots but for health care staff, we can replicate any situation and control the environment and the mannequin's physiological status. This will allow staff to feel comfortable about managing difficult or rare events and make them more confident, therefore improving patient safety.

"The simulation suite can be used for all levels of clinical staff from HCAs to consultants allowing them to come and practice skills and management of patients. The environment, mannequin and patient scenario can be altered to different levels of complexity depending on the staff group involved.

"Staff are therefore asked to manage situations which they would face in the real world in a challenging but safe environment. And that's something you can't get from a book or case study, hands on practice with all the challenges that you may face in a real situation."

Just as it is in actual health care, it is the patient that remains the focus of attention. In this case it is a mannequin, known as 'Hal', and all his physiological parameters such as heart and breathing rate, lung sounds and even his blink rate can be altered to realistically mimic any medical situation.

Staff are able to speak on behalf of the mannequin meaning they are therefore able to inform the clinician what the "patient" problems are, such as if they have chest pain and responding to their questions. All this makes it extremely realistic and allows staff to behave as they would in the clinical situation which makes the possibilities for training endless.

The simulation suite is also getting a smaller paediatric model for training scenarios with children.

A typical session

There is a two way mirror which allows the controller to watch the scenario and respond appropriately to ensure the situation remains relevant and realistic.

Each session is recorded so colleagues can watch the scenario as it unfolds on a TV screen in an adjacent room. Just like Big Brother people forget being filmed very quickly. They behave like they behave in clinical practice; it's a very powerful way of learning.

At the end of the session the group can discuss what happened in the simulation suite with one of the trained facilitators, showing it's not about learning for one or two people but very much about learning for a whole group. It is about managing the whole patient, not just about learning clinical skills. Simulations build in non-technical skills, such as communication, team work, leadership, all of which make a big difference to patient outcome and patient experience. 

Investment in people

As well as investment in equipment it is also a real investment in people, staff and patients. Simulation is closely linked with improvements in patient safety which is of paramount importance in the trust and it will really pay dividends for Southend Hospital and its patients.

There's a real confidence in the simulation centre and currently ten staff from the hospital are fully trained in delivering simulation at Southend.

Gillian, said: "We have the full set up here, no other hospital in the area has it set up to this degree of fidelity, meaning it is so close to real life practice and that is essential. Professional development is important and we know it is something important in helping to train to medical students, trainees and overseas nurses alike. It will help attract them and bring them back to Southend.

"We also realised it is something really beneficial to our existing workforce, not only does it allow them to identify risks and areas for improvement but it allows us to develop our staff in a safe and controlled environment. This is a great facility for staff development and will help us retain staff in the future."

The simulation suite is going to be open for all clinical directorates to use and the trainers will help develop training programmes with all the different areas of the hospital. All of this means 'Hal' and our new child mannequin aren't expected to have any bed rest anytime soon.

In the future it could even be used as an income generator, with the potential to eventually develop courses offered outside of the hospital.