Julie is a regular 19-year-old. But she recently fell while playing soccer and broke her right leg, requiring her to have surgery to repair the fracture.
She’s healthy. But in her medical history, her mother had an abnormal reaction to an anesthetic, which is why doctors kept Julie awake under spinal anesthetic.
The surgery has gone well up until half an hour in.
“How are you doing, Julie?” asks Dr. Stan Vuksic, the anaesthesiologist.
“I’m not feeling too well,” she responds and starts to blink rapidly.
Suddenly, her blood pressure drops and she has an unusual, but not unheard of heart rhythm. Doctors respond with usual treatment procedures. But while treating it, she goes into a different heart rhythm, with doctors having to call for additional help and use a defibrillator to shock her heart back into a normal rhythm.
Julie is not real, in fact, she’s a mannequin, but the simulation is real.
The demonstration was part of the opening of the Centre for Interprofessional Clinical Simulation Learning at Royal Jubilee Hospital last Thursday.
The $2.9-million centre is a partnership between Island Health, the University of Victoria and the University of B.C.’s Faculty of Medicine. It will provide more than 500 medical, nursing, midwifery and health professionals with medical scenarios they are likely to encounter when treating patients.
The state-of-the-art mannequins, which are wireless and have ultrasound technology, simulate human patients and range in age and body type from newborn to adult. Each has a name, a medical and social history, and life-like features including blinking eyes, a beating heart, working lungs and a voice that responds to treatments. It can cough and moan as well.
Mannequins will be programmed to behave in different ways with vital signs that respond to treatments and interventions. Students will enter an operating room with the same equipment and tools they would normally, including anaesthetics and gases that mannequins can detect and respond to.
In the past, the two universities have used mannequins as part of the curriculum, but none are as advanced as these.
Valarie Kuehne, UVic’s vice-president academic and provost, said the program will help students be more prepared in the real world and enhance patient safety.
“(The mannequins) have the capacity to respond. So as the simulation is ongoing, the patient can do better or worse depending on what the actions are taken by the multi-disciplinary team,” Kuehne said.
“It provides an opportunity for all the disciplines that are engaged in the simulation to debrief afterward and actually learn from the steps that were taken and not taken and how they could improve this in a real situation should they find it in their work.”
Taj Baidwan, executive vice-president and chief medical officer with Island Health, said the simulation teaches students to work together as a team.
“We need to work in teams, we can’t do it on our own and the strength of that is really brought out in the simulation, especially if it starts at the beginning of your training,” he said, adding hospitals around the world are increasingly using simulations are learning tools. “It’s no longer about learners being classical learners that we thought of. Now it’s about learning throughout your career and learning from your mistakes.”