The Tasmanian Ambulance Service (TAS) comprises 225 operational paramedics throughout the state. Catering largely to UTAS associate degree paramedicine students, this Hobart-based Sim centre is a far cry from the days when participants responded to ‘case management exercises;’ a list of symptoms written on a whiteboard.

Funding was sought outside of the government, and the Motor Accidents Insurance Board (MAIB) of Tasmania came forward to fund the infrastructure for all the Centre’s audio-visual requirements. With the TAS providing the facility, this joint venture has no ongoing funding for positions, which are provided by TAS itself.

From assessment to learning experience

Regional Education Coordinator Brett Gibson reports that simulation training has been taken up with great enthusiasm since its inception in 2006, particularly with regards to the variety of situations made possible. The centre makes extensive use of the wireless facilities of the manikins, so that a SimMan 3G can be loaded into the back of an ambulance in a dedicated area to simulate real-life emergency situations. These are also fully wired with mobile cameras for instant display in the observation area.

The required courses usually start with theory early in the morning or week, then followed up with practical experience for follow-up on their learning. Qualified staff may be rostered on for professional development week, which is more of a learning experience, rather than graded course.

A new perspective on learning

A focus for the centre is to establish a regular training program for qualified staff, many of who have years of ‘hands-on’ experience, and not much ‘virtual’ training. “It’s a big difference [for staff] in the way we train and educate,” notes Gibson. “No longer is it a face-to-face discussion about the scenario. You have to demonstrate it. Some people find it really exhilarating, and some people find this a bit confronting.” Through refocusing the way the training scenario is conducted, the challenge for staff is to demonstrate their knowledge with a realistic, responsive manikin.

Change is in the air

Gibson sees the Sim centre as the beginning of changes in the way education is done at TAS. Students have seen instant benefits from the training, and in one case a road trauma simulation was completed and the next day exactly the same situation faced in real life. “As a result, they performed brilliantly, and they gained a great deal of confidence from both their response and the respect of their peers,” he says.

A Sim centre is currently being developed in the north of Tasmania, it is hoped that this centre will expand its scope and have an air ambulance focus using a SimMan 3G and mock-fuselage for a realistic setting. Gibson believes that simulation training is taking off in the state, and hopes that with the addition of more courses for staff, more people will see the benefits of it. “Once you take away the stress of assessment and just focus on the experience, it provides greater educational opportunities.”