Recently I have been speaking to university lecturers to learn how they are maintaining teaching quality and student engagement during the ‘lockdown’. Many are simply taking traditional ‘talk and chalk’ methods and ‘delivering’ (I’m not a fan of that word concerning education, but it is appropriate here) lessons via video call. For some students, this may work, but I know from my own experience of ‘Zoom fatigue‘, the novelty of this will quickly wear off, if it hasn’t already.
Healthcare simulationists are a creative bunch; I’ve seen many examples of novel ideas, from video-guided clinical skills labs to sim techs creating virtual simulation apps. Reinventing the wheel is common in our industry; funding can be difficult to access, so people make the best of the knowledge and resources they already have. This is admirable, but progress is slow and people rarely come up with truly unique solutions.
My job at Simulaids is filling the gaps in the market that the likes of Laerdal, CAE and Gaumard miss. Innovation takes time in big companies, but as an independent distributor, we can help smaller companies with unique products gain a foothold in the UK. Three such products perfectly address the current needs in healthcare education, two of which we have been selling for a while and one that has been developed in response to COVID-19.
The first patient communication simulator, by which I mean a simulator that uses speech recognition software and conversational AI to run facilitator-free took the form of a manikin; ALEX. We have customers who have been using ALEX for around two years now in various settings including Nursing Schools, Social Care and Schools of Pharmacy. PCS Spark is essentially a VR version of ALEX, but with multiple patients of varying age, gender and ethnicity.
Scenarios can be accessed via VR headset, Oculus Go is the lowest cost for a fully-immersive experience, or through the Google Chrome internet browser on desktop, tablet and phone from anywhere with an internet connection. Students use their device’s microphone to talk directly to the virtual standardised patient, who responds in real-time. Questions and answers are logged and objectively scored based on a fully customisable matrix. Custom scenarios are easy to build using a web-based platform which is accessible from anywhere.
FREE TRIAL scenarios are available now; cases include COVID-19 screening, chest pain and headache. All you need to do is create a free PCS account. Follow this link to sign up, or contact me for a guided tour.
6,000+ video lectures with interactive presentations and medical models, multiple-choice questions and fully trackable student progress through the learning management system. Lecturers can utilise the software to create their own content if they wish. Again, it’s important not to reinvent the wheel for the sake of ego.
Initially, I saw huge potential for this platform to support students who struggle to learn effectively in a traditional lecture theatre format. Now our circumstances mean every student needs support.
Clinical Skills Training at Home
It’s too early to advertise specifics, but I wanted to give you an example to show how quickly a good business can turn an idea into reality. One of our suppliers specialises in realistic medical models and task trainers. They have full ownership of the manufacturing process so can respond to customer needs quicker than any other company I have worked with. A couple of weeks ago they approached us with an idea for a clinical skills training product that would be small enough to send in the post and cheap enough to enable every student to have one, even buy it themselves. What they came up with was an evolution of already tried-and-tested products, into something truly innovative and exciting.
We expect to receive the product in the next couple of weeks and will send some FREE samples out for customer feedback. If you’re interested in this concept and willing to help us with a review contact me to receive one.
Update 1st May 2020: MultiPad is now available to order
About the author
Mark Cook is head of business development for Simulaids Ltd. Before entering the commercial side of the simulation industry, he was an Emergency Medical Technician and Educator for East of England Ambulance Service and has a PGCE specialising in post-compulsory education. Mark spends the majority of his time visiting simulation and clinical skills centres in hospitals and universities across the UK, learning from experts and providing helpful advice to his customers.