Southern Health is Victoria’s largest metropolitan health service. It employs over 12,000 clinical staff across its four Melbourne campuses, and is home to one of the largest, and most progressive, simulation centres in Australia.
Established in 1997, the Southern Health Simulation Centre was among the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Originally the result of a seed funding initiative by the hospital’s Anaesthetic Department, the Southern Health Simulation Centre initially catered exclusively to the educational needs of clinical anaesthetic staff.
Today, after more than a decade of successful operation, the Southern Health Simulation Centre provides advanced simulation training to a wide range of health professionals. This includes medical students, pre-vocational employees, specialist medical practitioners and nursing and allied health staff across the whole of Southern Health.
According to Lead Researcher Dr. Stuart Marshall, simulation training plays a key role in Southern Health’s ongoing commitment to reduced clinical risk and improved patient safety.
By giving health practitioners access to ‘realistic’ clinical environments, such as operating theatres, emergency departments, wards and delivery suites, the Southern Health Simulation Centre provides students and teaching staff with a unique insight into how they perform and communicate in a diverse range of clinical settings.
The lessons learned in these simulated sessions are then implemented into the teaching curriculum and clinical environment in order to produce safer working conditions and improved patient safety.
Dr. Marshall reports that the capacity to develop interventions in the sim centre and then roll them out into the hospital environment is hugely beneficial. "We recently ran a very successful intervention around telephone communication, which helped us achieve a refined and structured way of communicating in the hospital environment. We identified the need and commenced the initial strategy within the Simulation Centre, and then implemented our findings into smaller hospital groups, before putting the intervention into practice across the entire hospital," he said.
The unique advantages of simulation training are certainly not lost on Southern Health’s diverse student populous who see simulation as an integral part of their medical training. According to Dr. Marshall, all Southern Health students and registrars are trained with simulation from the very beginning.
In fact, today’s students are so accustomed to the technology and its aims, that they simply assume that it will be part of their training: "Simulation makes it easy for us to engage our students. These days most of our students expect to have access to the technology and embrace it eagerly," said Dr. Marshall.
Vertically integrated training
Southern Health’s decision to establish a vertically integrated simulation curriculum has set a new benchmark in Australian simulation training. By incorporating simulation into their entire training curriculum, the Southern Health Simulation Centre is one of the first centres in the Southern Hemisphere to implement an ‘across the board’ simulation training initiative.
Of course, it’s not only students and patients who benefit from simulation technology. As the delivery of high quality healthcare becomes increasingly complex, professionals at all levels use the simulation centre as an important way of maintaining clinical currency and maximising the acquisition and transfer of skills into the workplace.
Rather than simply using simulation technologies as a secondary teaching aid, Southern Health is committed to embedding them into the everyday activities of all staff and students. This involves providing a number of courses to a wide variety of health professionals including; undergraduate medical students; junior and senior medical staff; emergency department nursing and medical staff; anaesthetic nursing and medical staff; midwives and obstetric medical staff; international medical graduates; paramedics; rural GP anaesthetists and anaesthetic/recovery staff.