Emergency training for hospital staff uses life-like model

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Four people surrounding a mannequin in a hospital bed working on simulated task

A manikin called ‘Hal’ is helping doctors and nurses to safely treat patients in emergency situations.  

The sophisticated simulation model can have a cardiac arrest in the same way as a human. This is when a person’s heart suddenly stops pumping blood round their body causing them to fall unconscious and stop breathing.

Hal can breathe, speak, has audible heart and lung sounds, a measurable pulse rate and responds to drugs. If CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is not performed correctly, his condition deteriorates.

Hal is part of a family of simulated patients that belong to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Simulation and Interactive Learning Centre – one of the largest medical simulation centres in the UK.

Once a month the model is taken onto the wards at the Trust to run a cardiac arrest scenario.

The team of nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals – a mixture of junior and senior staff – are not given any prior warning about the exercise. A cardiac arrest call is made and the staff only know that it is a simulation when they arrive on the scene to find the model.

Since training with Hal started in August 2017, more than 200 staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ have taken part in the cardiac arrest exercise.

Dr Shumontha Dev, a consultant in emergency medicine and deputy director of medical education at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Every second counts when someone has a cardiac arrest so it’s important that our staff are able to handle stressful and highly-charged situations.

“By taking the simulation equipment to clinical areas around our hospitals and basing the exercise on real life scenarios, staff are able to practice looking after patients in their own environment. Over the last year the cardiac arrest exercise has helped staff to improve their knowledge and has enhanced patient safety and care.”

Each scenario lasts 15 to 20 minutes and involves between nine and 24 clinical staff. Following the scenario, the group has a debrief to discuss what went well and what they could have done differently. The whole training session lasts around one hour.

A survey found that 93% of staff who took part in the exercise agreed that the simulation was a worthwhile use of their time.

Dr Matthew Hammond-Haley is a junior doctor who recently took part in a simulation exercise in the clinical decision unit at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Dr Hammond-Haley, who was first to arrive on the scene, said: “As a junior doctor you help to manage very sick patients but there’s always so much senior support around.

“The simulation exercise was a good opportunity to practice what I’m trained to do and to take on a leadership role for longer than normal in a safe, supportive environment. The debrief session was a useful learning experience and I feel more comfortable about being in that situation again with real patients.”

Esther Feleye, a nurse on Stephen ward at St Thomas’ Hospital, was involved in an exercise that took place in a day room that is used by both patients and visitors.

Esther said: “Someone could have a cardiac arrest anywhere in the hospital and at any time so it was good for us to practice this scenario.

“After the initial shock of seeing that the patient was actually a model, the simulation felt real and has given me more confidence in helping a person in a similar situation.”

Last updated: March 2022

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