Practice makes perfect

Promise Magazine: Spring/Summer 2015

A breathing, talking mannequin is being used to provide training for critical patient care at St. Paul’s.

As a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and other educational institutions, St. Paul’s is always looking for innovative methods to train the health care professionals of tomorrow. Since 2014, one of those methods has involved the use of a new lifelike simulation mannequin (Sim Man) to teach caregivers how to manage challenging clinical emergencies.

So far, around 120 medical students and residents, along with nurses, fellows and other staff, have learned how to provide emergency care to patients using the new, state-of-the-art Sim Man at St. Paul’s. Dis- playing similar characteristics to a real per- son, the Sim Man can produce such things as sounds, sweat and a heartbeat. It can simulate any number of conditions, from cardiac arrest to respiratory failure, giving trainees a chance to practice their skills outside of the patient environment.

“For patient safety and continuing professional development, simulation has really become an important means of training staff,” says Dr. Adam Peets, site fellowship director for Critical Care Medicine at St. Paul’s. “Studies show that trainees gain a level of competency much faster using simulators than they otherwise would.”

Safe Learning Environment

The advantage of using the Sim Man is that trainees can practice new and established procedures and protocols in controlled areas of the hospital, such as a part of the emergency department or in the Clinical Simulation Room, a dedicated space where up to 50 trainees can run through simulations under the watchful eye of trainers.

Trainees can run the same simulation several times, and are exposed to a wide variety of cases, ranging from moderately complex to highly complex. A debriefing, where trainees discuss the simulation and receive feedback from trainers, immediately follows each simulation.

“It creates a safe environment for our learners,” says Dr. Jeanne MacLeod, staff emergency physician and director of simulation for the emergency department at St. Paul’s. “The key thing is that often these crisis situations don’t occur often enough to allow us to practice our skills. By using simulation, it allows us to have more exposure to crisis situations.”

An Interdisciplinary Team Effort

According to Dr. T. Laine Bosma, a consultant anesthesiologist at St. Paul’s, simulations have the added advantage of enabling multiple team members, such as physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists, to come together to bridge any gaps in understanding and identify everyone’s role in a given situation.

“That way, when it comes to putting these skills into practice, everyone can move quickly, the patient’s safe and we have a good outcome,” he says.

This collaborative environment not only creates an arena for caregivers at St. Paul’s and beyond to practice essential skills, it also fosters knowledge-sharing and provides a space where discussions can lead to new and improved approaches to patient care.

Unlike previous models, the new Sim Man can also be moved to different parts of the hospital, such as the operating room and emergency department. In these “in situ” cases, trainees are right in the environment where they will use their skills. Nearby staff, such as nurses and respiratory therapists, can also participate in the simulations, providing further opportunities for collaboration and enhanced learning.

Expanding Technology and Teaching

The effectiveness of simulations and simulation mannequins as teaching tools could play a key role in enabling St. Paul’s to remain at the forefront of teaching and training care providers. In fact, Peets, MacLeod and Bosma are hoping to see the simulation program expanded to other departments at the hospital. Already, St. Paul’s is expected to receive a Sim Mom this year, which will be used to train maternity staff in emergency situations, such as emergency Caesarean sections. While similar to the Sim Man in terms of its overall functionality, the Sim Mom also has a uterus and fetus.

“St. Paul’s could be a leader in teaching using simulation,” says MacLeod. “It’s a bridge between the knowledge our learners gain in medical school and the practical skills they use in the hospital.”

To learn how to support medical teaching at St. Paul’s, please contact St. Paul’s Foundation at 604-682- 8206 or visit our Donate page.