Theatre technology and operating theatre technology come together in the same environment to help deliver high quality healthcare in emergency situations.

Anyone familiar with Shure, BSS and Clear-Com products know these brands can be relied upon during live events when getting the show right is ‘a matter of life and death’.

But there is another ‘life and death’ situation where these brands are actually helping to save lives by training the next generation of health professionals to deliver the best possible patient care in emergency situations.

Things really are a matter of life and death for doctors and nurses in emergency rooms, hospital wards and operating theatres every day. Australia’s excellent healthcare system is responsible for the important and difficult task of training its healthcare professionals and clinicians to act quickly, correctly and calmly when a patient is in a critical condition.

But how can clinicians be trained to deal effectively in an emergency situation without actually putting a patient in danger? The current trend in healthcare training is immersive simulation, aided by specially integrated interactive mannequins, manipulated behind-the-scenes by clinical educators. This new breed of medical education tools can simulate heart attacks, bleeding, birthing and even being operated on with striking realism.

For instance, the instructor can make mannequins react suddenly to any actions performed by medical, nursing and allied health students, requiring an immediate and coordinated effort to save the patient. Immersive simulation is as close as students can ever get to a trauma situation before they start clinical practice in the real world. This vital technology is now accessible to students at The Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School of The University of Sydney.

Barbara MacKenzie, IS Operations and Infrastructure Manager at Sydney Adventist Hospital, describes the Sim Lab as a small ‘Big Brother’ studio set up with two simulation environments simulating a critical care ward and an operating theatre. The clinical educator sits in the control room between the two rooms and observes the simulated training through one-way glass facing into both rooms. The clinical educator running the training scenario has been set up with controls equivalent to a stage management communication system.

In a typical training scenario, five students wear Shure ULX-D wireless bodypacks and lavalier microphones. Signals from these microphones are routed to BSS BLU Series DSP units, which perform mixing, echo cancelling and routing duties. These signals are fed to the control room, into video, recording and comms feeds. The audio and video feeds of all students are recorded on an IP based video system, so that the training scenario footage is accessible for reference during the students’ debrief. This can also be streamed to a break-out room for their peers to watch in real-time.

In the simulation room, another educator referred to as the ‘confederate’ assists the control room educator by directing the scenario on the ground. The confederate and control room are linked via a Clear-Com HME DX210 wireless communications system, which also takes a feed from the BSS BLU mix. Using their Clear-Com HS15 and HS15-D headsets with integrated microphones, both educators can communicate with each other, and speak through the ceiling speakers and even through the mannequins themselves.

To the question why a hospital teaching lab needs to use such an enterprise-grade theatrical microphone and comms system, Wanda McDermott, Clinical Skills Educator at Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School explains that using clear, good quality microphones is exceptionally important because the students are expected to talk through and explain what they’re doing during the training simulation. She adds that the more they verbalise, the better their retention of the knowledge.

When it comes to high-end simulation scenarios for registrars and anaesthetists, the educators want to listen to the types of communication between team members to assess the human factor in their decision making process when looking after a critically unwell patient. A key objective of the exercise is to fine-tune the students’ communication skills to learn how to keep on top of stress. The educators, therefore, need to understand everything that’s being said in the simulation room so that effective debriefing can take place; garbled conversation cannot achieve the goals of the simulation exercise.

According to MacKenzie, they are planning to double the number of microphones based on the success of the Shure ULX-D system. She adds that the technology completely supports the teaching methodology and is absolutely critical to the functioning of the centre. Shure ULX-D’s visibility across the network for management is also a key factor.

Sydney Adventist Hospital has adopted a ‘Future Proof’ philosophy for all technical deployments. MacKenzie explains that this thinking is not about having the latest or most fashionable equipment, but based on deriving longer term benefits. There is also greater focus on developing partnerships and standards, rather than just shopping for products. For instance, the hospital can benefit from having a direct relationship with a distributor like Jands whose stable of products is tier one in the AV industry rather than having solutions delivered via an integrator or consultant.

The technology solution implemented in the SIM Centre started with a concept brief from consultants WSP Group, with the hospital working through this iteratively with end users, equipment distributors and systems integrator Fredon. The facility has been funded by both private and government funds, including generous in-kind support from Jands.