Robo-patients give medicos the edge

RN Anthony Mansfield, left, Dr Richard Accurso, MP Sharon Bird and nurse educator Paola Sheridan-Moules with one of the high-tech training manikins. Photo: ROBERT PEETSource: Illawarra Mercury

A family of robot-type patients that can spurt blood, breathe, blink and give birth on demand is being used to train Illawarra’s medicos.

The lifelike dummies reside in one of two “Sim Labs” inside the recently opened Illawarra Shoalhaven Health Education Centre, on Wollongong’s Loftus Street.

The facility was built using almost $5 million in federal government funding, announced in 2010, and began operating last month.

Its most sophisticated addition is a $95,000 SimMan 3G – a wireless, high-fidelity patient simulator capable of mimicking a raft of bodily reactions.

SimMan 3G yesterday played the part of an emergency patient who had fallen from a ladder.

As he lay on the bed, blood spurted unexpectedly from his head while trainers looked on to see how a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals would respond.

Trainers looked for details including whether the team would remember to use hand sanitiser.

They observed from a control room concealed behind mirror glass, with the trainees’ every move and sound relayed through an extensive network of cameras and microphones.

The dummies can make programmed noises – SimWoman is capable of painful-sounding birthing sounds – or the trainers can speak for them.

Veeru Jagarlamudi, a trainer at the facility, said the manikins could be used for laparoscopic surgery and could deliver a baby.

“People can collect blood from them, they can give fluid, they can put a drip in,” he said.

“This facility has a complete, fully fledged simulation environment. We need it to be as similar to real life as possible.”

The centre’s nurse educator intensive care, Paola Sheridan-Moules, said it would be used by new doctors, nurses and allied health professionals and as part of ongoing training.

“Everything’s best practice, so when things change we need a safe environment to learn in,” she said.

The centre will allow for four or five different scenarios to run at once and is a significant upgrade of the previous training facility, which allowed for a single scenario at a time.

It is for use by medicos from all hospitals in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, with sleeping accommodation upstairs for trainers and students who need to stay the night.

The centre’s manager, Pauline Gaetani, said it was an important addition.

“What attracts a lot of [doctors, nurses and allied health professionals] to the hospitals is their teaching and training facilities,” she said.

“If we have got supported teaching and training programs they’re more likely to come here and stay here.”

Funding for the facility came from the $90 million Innovative Clinical Teaching and Training Grants Program, announced in June 2010.

Illawarra MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones toured the site yesterday as part of its official launch.

Health Workforce Australia has contributed $863,000 for the fit-out of the facility, and $500,000 towards staffing costs, administered through the NSW Health Education and Training Institute.

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