New interactive suite unveiled as Northumbria Healthcare’s simulation hub celebrates 5th birthday
A high-tech interactive suite has been unveiled at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s state-of-the-art simulation hub for medical training and education.
The new development at DASH, based at Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington, uses a three-walled set-up to create scenarios that immerse learners in a range of realistic environments.
Wards, rooms or operating theatres from around the Trust’s hospitals can be photographed and then mapped on the walls to create real-world surroundings for training, while the floor-to-ceiling touchscreens can also be used to explore the human body, for example, blood flow through the heart and out into arteries and veins or the nervous system.
Different teams ranging from anaesthetists and surgeons to emergency doctors and nurses and those working in palliative care will be able to develop their own teaching programmes as the technology is fully customisable. The system was developed by Gener8, working in the healthcare sector for the first time.
This latest innovation comes five years into the life of DASH, which is one of the best simulation facilities in the region, used by the likes of Health Education England and a number of the Royal Colleges for their exams. A special event to mark the hub’s 5th birthday and the opening of the interactive suite was held on Friday, October 8, and attended by the area’s MP, Ian Lavery.
Despite the limitations imposed by Covid-19, DASH still hosted thousands of people during the pandemic, staying open while many simulation facilities shut and becoming the only one in the region to hold key exams, having developed guidelines for safe use and social distancing.
Dr James McFetrich, an emergency care consultant who is also Northumbria’s director of simulation, said: “The event was a nice way to reflect on the past five years and how far DASH has come, including not being knocked off its stride during the pandemic, but it’s also a chance to continue looking to the future.
“DASH is a forward-thinking facility which is always looking to explore interesting opportunities for further developments as it strives to provide the best possible teaching and training environment. All of this is in support of providing high-quality patient care.”
Dinwoodie Assessment and Simulation Hub, to give it its full title, hosted its first simulation course in September 2016 before being officially opened by the Duchess of Northumberland two months later.
It was made possible by ward space being freed up when Northumbria Healthcare opened its new emergency care hospital in Cramlington, and was then funded by the Trust, undergraduate medical education programmes and charitable funds, including from Dinwoodie, a healthcare education charity.
Manager Nicky Jenkins, who runs the facility day-to-day alongside simulation technician John Stratford, said: “It’s really gratifying now to look back over the past five years as I always felt that having a flexible, realistic teaching environment would be of real benefit and that has certainly proved to be the case, providing an excellent facility for all sorts of medical education and training, which in turn means that patients are getting the best care possible.
“There were some at the outset who thought that DASH would not necessarily be that well-used, but it is now fully booked most of the time. A large number of courses and initiatives have been developed here specifically because we have this space and these facilities available. It’s so flexible and the whole space is a blank canvas.”
In addition to weekly sessions for medical undergraduates, DASH hosts a variety of teaching opportunities, examinations and assessments, and multi-professional courses from basic clinical skills training days to high-fidelity team scenarios and external bookings.
Its permanent residents are the manikins, including Bernie, who can sweat, froth, his pupils dilate, his tongue swells from anaphylaxis, and he has a pulse, heart and lung sounds. There are tanks in his legs which can store blood before being ejected from various points on his body.
There is also a mum who gives birth, a baby which can have seizures, and Viv, a 100% silicon, extremely realistic manikin created by Lifecast Body Simulation, at Elstree Film Studios in London.
Ian Lavery MP said: “I was delighted to be able to visit DASH and see everything that it has to offer. It’s vital that the next generation of medics have the best training opportunities so that Wansbeck and the Trust’s other hospitals can continue to serve my constituents as well as they have for many years.”
The event was also attended by Graham Chadwick, founder and owner of Gener8-Healthcare, which developed the interactive suite. “It’s been a pleasure to work with Nicky and John on this project at DASH, as it has been clear to us how keen they are to continue to innovate and provide the best technology to support medical teaching and training,” he said.
“We’re confident that they will see ongoing benefits from the Gener8 system, which enables a range of scenarios that give learners the vital experience they need to become safe, skilled and confident in healthcare.”
Ben O’Connell, media and communications officer
Benjamin.O’Connell@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk or 07833 046680.