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First rural Simulation Training Centre in Saskatchewan officially opens in Swift Current

by Elisabeth Dowson
Published on April 23, 2013

Another dream of Swift Current’s Dr. Tara Lee was realized April 19 when the Cypress Health Region officially opened the Lee/Irwin Simulation Training Centre and Cenovus Energy Inc. Control Room at the Cypress Regional Hospital.

This innovative project is a collaborative effort that engages the resources of the Cypress Health Region and Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation, and was generously supported by a $100,000 donation from the Lee/Irwin family presented at last year's Radiothon and $35,000 from Cenovus Energy Inc., reflecting the contributors' commitment to supporting healthcare and continuous learning opportunities.

Located in the West Wing of the Medical/Surgical Department at the Regional Hospital, the Simulation Training Centre will build and maintain the skills of health professionals in the use of new equipment and practice techniques on simulated patients, and will also incorporate a mobile unit so the health region’s rural locations can benefit from the technology.

"This is another epic moment for our region in becoming a medical education centre and continuing to take steps to improve the quality of care given to our patients," noted Dr. Lee, Project Lead and Site Director for the University of Saskatchewan’s Rural Family Medicine program in Swift Current.

"We now have a situation in Swift Current where we’ve created an excellent teaching environment, along with the state of the art teaching tools that we need to compete with any tertiary centre.

"Not only is it going to benefit people in Swift Current; it's also meant for the rural centres as well. We're going to be using a refurbished ambulance for a mobile simulation lab to bring our dolls to the rural centres."

Cypress Health Region CEO Beth Vachon observed, "This has been the vision of Dr. Lee for the past few years when she came back to the community and started working with the university and our family medicine residents.

"She was looking for ways to enhance their education as well as ensure that all of our existing professionals had the ability to really look at how they maintain their skills and keep that up to date. This was her dream."

Vachon noted, "We contributed the space and the staff. This is not an inexpensive project, but when we look at what the benefits are going to be and the ability to train our staff on the ground and give those kinds of training opportunities, it's such a great investment. People need to be able to practice their skills, so for things like advanced cardiac support, our staff have to go through a recertification process. This gives them the opportunity to be able to do it here, and not have to travel, or not as far."

The mannequins include an adult that can be configured to represent either gender, as well as a child and a newborn infant. They can present a vast array of symptoms using scenario programs directed by an operator in the adjoining control room. The mannequins will react with improved or deteriorating symptoms or conditions depending on the student or practitioner's treatment.

Dr. Lee's vision is based on her simple philosophy of teaching: Repetition makes us better, makes us more confident and improves our skills.

"It gives them more volume. They're in the ER a lot, but it depends on what comes through the door as to what they get to see," Dr. Lee said. "This is just increasing their volume, just repetition over and over again. The more you do something the better you get. It improves their skills and gives them confidence, because they’ve done the same thing over and over again and they know they can do it.

"It's mostly at least two or three people doing the scenario and usually one person in [the control room] helping it run smoothly. Sometimes we prompt the learner, if they’re not getting something."

Vachon added that larger groups can also participate in a scenario.

"People can train and run the protocols together and each individual has the ability to play out their role and know exactly what their job is and when they need to be part of what’s happening."

During his speech, Clay Thompson, Executive Director of the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation, confessed to harbouring misgivings when Dr. Lee first proposed the concept of using mannequins for training.

"I'll admit I had some reservations … How could some hi-tech mannequin support healthcare needs?" Thompson said, referring to the Foundation's mandate. "Then you invited me to go to Regina and I watched you and Dr. [Jason] Gatzke bring 'HAL' back from a shellfish reaction, and that convinced me right then and there.

"This facility can and will support the health care needs today and well into the future. We can now offer training opportunities that were only available in Saskatoon and Regina up to this point."

Anneke van der Merwe, Cypress Health Region’s Undergraduate/Postgraduate Education Coordinator, said, "The simulation centre will ensure that student physicians, nurses and other health professionals are exposed to consistent, predictable clinical scenarios that will increase their knowledge levels and allow them to be confident in how they react to these situations in real life scenarios."

The programs for the mannequins include comprehensive scenarios, some of which were pre-programmed and others that have been pulled from those used in other simulation labs and customized so each scenario presents new challenges every time it is used.

As an example, Dr. Lee said, "If we go to a scenario and we want to do an asthma scenario, and it comes up 'Five-year-old asthmatic, begins coughing' and we can run the program. So it starts here," she said, pointing to the computer screen in the control room, "'child in respiratory distress saying I can't breath' and this says here to 'wait indefinitely' until someone gives them the right medication, but what we can also do is if the student doesn't give them medication within a certain period of time, we'll make that doll start dying or get worse until they do the proper procedure. So that's how we run it in here, so the person in here can make it go faster or change things."

Students are thrilled with the training centre.

"They love it. All students love simulations because it’s fun and they get to do it in a situation that isn't stressful, isn't life threatening," said Dr. Lee. "Whatever they do, the mannequin will reflect that. If they do something right it will get better; if they do something wrong it will get worse or die."

Jack and Louise (Irwin) Lee said in a statement read by Dr. Noble Irwin Foundation Board member and father of Dr. Lee, Dick Lee, at the official opening, "We choose to support the centre for a number of reasons. The first and foremost was to support our niece Tara. We are very proud of her accomplishments, her hard work and dedication that she has given to Swift Current and area.

"We made our donation in honour of my father Lam Lee and Louise's mother Irene Irwin. I don't think Tara's grandpa ever imagined we would have a doctor in the family. I know he would have been bursting with pride had he been able to witness all this.

"Dr. Noble Irwin has been honoured by the Swift Current community through the establishment of the Foundation but, as everyone knows, behind every successful man is a great woman and we felt it necessary to honour and acknowledge Irene's contribution to the community as well. We are honoured to have our names attached to this facility."

Vachon affirmed, "This is a vital link in education and training of our physicians and those in our Family Medicine residency program, and our soon-to-arrive nursing students from the University of Regina and SIAST who will begin their degree program in Swift Current in the fall.

"This will help our region in becoming the learning organization that we want to be, and we know the value of that, not only for potential recruitment and retention in the future, but also it helps us as care providers to really be crystalizing why we do the things we do when we get to work with students that are coming into the profession."


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