December 7, 2006 The University of Portsmouth has opened a UKP4.85million high-tech teaching facility with computerised mannequins to train the health-related scientist of tomorrow. The new facility - called the ExPERT Centre (Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning) - features state of the art mannequins in two fully-kitted out simulation suites (operating theatre and hospital ward). The life-like mannequins - or human patient simulators - have computerised sensors that react to any treatment students apply.
“You can hear their heartbeat and the sounds from their lungs and bowel,” the ExPERT Centre’s director Professor Lesley Reynolds said.
“They breathe oxygen, drool, secrete fluids, blink, bleed and even react to drugs injected into their bodies - they are as real as can be.”
The facility will be used by students in the biomedical sciences, psychology, radiography, social work, and professions allied to medicine and dentistry.
It will also be used by health and allied health professionals for continuing professional development, as well as emergency workers such as ambulance officers, fireman and police officers who, in the course of their duties, may need some specialised knowledge to save lives.
Professor Reynolds explained how the mannequins are treated as real patients by staff and students at the facility. The 'patients' have names, biographies and complete medical histories. This suspension of belief, she said, is heightened when students realise that the computerised patients react to interventions without instructor input.
“If the students provide the right treatment, the mannequin improves; if they provide the wrong treatment, the patient’s condition worsens,” Professor Reynolds said.
“For example, the mannequins can simulate cardiac arrest. The students can then administer a medicine such as epinephrine to try and get the heart going again. If they administer the right drug and the correct dose, the mannequin’s heart will start beating again. If they get it wrong, the patient dies.
“We are using technology to enhance learning, and in this example it’s the reality of life and death in a simulated environment.”
Everything happening inside the simulation suites is recorded with static and pan-and-tilt high-resolution cameras as well as discretely placed microphones. The recording is controlled in a one-way mirror shielded room overlooking the suites.
But technology-enhanced teaching and learning at the new facility is not confined to the simulation suites. Any activity in the suites can be streamed back to the centre’s techno-modern inspired teaching space so students and instructors can watch and critically appraise performances in real-time.
The ExPERT Centre also houses a biomedical sciences simulation laboratory. This laboratory has everything a private top of the line one has. It means students in the biomedical sciences learn the core professional competencies in an environment that better prepares them for the real life experience.