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NRGH simulation lab helps medical residents, students gain valuable skills

Sim lab helps residents and student gain valuable skills.

The patient coughs and then his breathing becomes laboured.

Medical professionals have little time to assess the situation and implement a course of action.

Dr. Oscar Casiro, regional associate dean of the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, inserts a breathing tube for the bag-valve-mask while paramedic Bob Penhale monitors the patient’s pulse and Dr. Simon Moore assesses the patient’s overall condition.

Quick decisions are necessary to save the patient’s life. It can be intense and clear communication, teamwork and strong decision-making are vital for patient survival.

This patient, however, is a mannequin. It’s lifelike and can talk, bleed, breathe, blink, have a pulse and transmit electrical rhythms to a cardiac monitor.

The doll is powered by wireless technology and is one of the newest learning tools helping to educate medical residents and students at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Simulations occur in the Human Factors Laboratory, which resembles an acute-care setting and is part of a new state-of-the art academic learning space unveiled by the Vancouver Island Health Authority Wednesday.

The space includes the simulation laboratory, as well as seminar and video-conferencing rooms.

The lab’s mannequin is controlled by an operator in a booth to simulate various medical conditions for procedures and surgeries. It enables participants to study everyday situations or rare events they might only encounter once in a career.

Simulations are intended to improve leadership, teamwork, communication, complex-decision making and situational awareness in a high stress environment.

Dr. Martin Dawes, UBC department head of family practice, said simulation is a critical ingredient in learning and situations in the lab can become real and valuable learning experiences.

“This is an intense experience, the sweat is literally pouring off you and the people behind in the booth are making things get worse and worse and worse,” said Dawes. “The simulation disappears … and becomes real and the patient in front of you is reacting in ways you can’t predict, they’re exploding body fluids in horrible sorts of ways and you’re surrounded by peers … who have contributions to make.”

The scenario is an important tool to recognize the contributions team members can make regardless of their profession and how their comments can be “vital to saving the patient’s life”.

“This will undoubtedly lead to improvements of quality of lives in patients and it will save lives as well,” said Dawes.

Moore, who is in the UBC Family Practice Residency Training Program, said nothing matches a simulator for learning how to communicate with colleagues – it helps people work as a team and gain confidence and competency.

“If we’re going to work together, why not learn together and simulation allows that to happen,” said Moore.  “At the end of day, that is going to benefit the citizens in Nanaimo and in British Columbia as well.”

The Ministry of Health invested $2.3 million, which funded renovations and the creation of the seminar and video-conferencing rooms. The Human Factors Lab cost approximately $200,000 and was funded by the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation's contribution of $35,000 and the UBC Family Practice Program.

The 5,660-square-foot space, located in the former operating suite location, will be used by medical residents, students and faculty members.

The video conferencing capabilities enables Nanaimo to connect to other teaching locations across the Island and B.C. It will be used for physician training for UBC’s Island Medical Program and the Nanaimo site for the UBC Family Practice Residency Training Program.

Since the Nanaimo program was established in 2007, 98 physicians have graduated through it.