Kick-started with proceeds of St Vincent’s Hospital’s yearly charity ball, this Sydney Sim centre had modest beginnings indeed. Initially put together with the loan of one manikin, TV, camcorder and a lot of enthusiasm, this sophisticated education centre now operates six days a week and trains hundreds of in-house staff with a multi-disciplinary approach.

New life to an old ward

Initiated by past Chairman of the Australian Resuscitation Council Professor Don Harrison, the simulation team jumped at the chance to use a SimMan manikin, which was then being used by St Vincent’s Private. 

“You can always improve response times to resuscitation,” says CPR coordinator Alex Pile. “We thought a Sim centre would be a great aid to our in-house education programs.” With financial support from St Vincent’s Hospital and collaboration with the University of NSW, the centre was established in 2005 in a heritage-listed Florence Nightingale ward. The perfect space to establish a long central studio with easily accessible control and debriefing rooms, offices and storerooms, the suite was also designed to be operated easily by any user.

A number of different camera angles can capture the action, as well as other computers to display the full details of the ‘case’, including ECG, chest X-ray and symptoms presented. Excellent backup means that if all else fails, a standard camcorder can be attached for a simpler recording.

All are welcome

The Sim centre Advanced Life Support scenarios now include up to 14 nurses and two doctors at a time, each playing their different roles or observing the responses. Anaesthetics, ICU, Emergency, Cardiac and a host of other areas train throughout the week, with some scenarios applicable across a number of these departments. Specialised workshops deal with the deteriorating patient or airway management.

Emergency physician Dr Melinda Berry teaches two days a week in the centre, and observes how the little details can add to the realism of the situation. “I call ahead with the case like a real paramedic would, which allows participants about five minutes to get ready. I dress up as one of the paramedics and wheel the manikin in, hook it up to the system and do the handover.” Adding to this is the use of real-life cases at St Vincent’s, rather than ‘textbook’ cases.

A non-hierarchical approach

The centre has had the opportunity to foster excellent teamwork, not only between departments, but between different roles. “No-one says ‘this is my area and my time,’” observes Pile. “There’s no hierarchical ‘I’m a doctor, you’re a nurse’. The training they do requires decision-making and communication between colleagues.” 

Dr Berry has also seen that the long history of separate medical and nursing education comes together at last under the Sim centre roof. “In reality they have to work together to look after patients. So most of the courses now combine both nursing and medical – which has received an excellent response.”