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Actors and manikins used in medical training

Friday, 29 September 2017

Image courtesy of Star Media - Medical students assess a sick Alex in the Simulation Centre
Image courtesy of Star Media - Medical students assess a sick Alex in the Simulation Centre

Christchurch medical students are working with actors and a high-technology manikin to practise dealing with acute patient scenarios before encountering them in the real world.

The programme is being run by the University of Otago, Christchurch’s Simulation Centre. The Christchurch campus teaches students from their 4th to 6th years of medical school.

Centre director Dr MaryLeigh Moore said they used actors from Hagley Theatre Company as well as high-technology manikins to prepare students for practicing medicine in the real world. The Centre had rooms set up like a GP consultation room, a hospital ward, and an acute setting such as an intensive care or emergency department room, she said.

Moore said in their 6th year, students (called trainee interns) took part in a scenario involving fictional patient Alan Gould. Alan is played by an actor in much of the scenario – which saw him recovering from surgery for an appendicitis, developing a serious infection, and then being followed up after discharge from hospital.

Moore said at the stage when Alan has an infection and is in the surgical high dependency unit, students interact with the Centre’s high-technology manikin, a human simulator named Alex. Alex can be programmed to simulate myriad medical situations and was voiced by an actor, she said.

“The initiative is designed to help the trainee interns transition from student to doctor and promote work readiness. In particular, the session focuses on ensuring patients whose health status is rapidly deteriorating receive appropriate and timely care. It also allows students to practise their communication skills and professionalism.’’

Moore said senior medical professionals were involved in the programme, replicating as closely as possible a real clinical situation.

Hagley Theatre Company’s artistic director Cameron Mattox said the actors enjoyed working with the Simulation Centre to create a more realistic patient experience for medical students.

“For the actor, there is a need for improvisation, a valuable acting tool, as questions are answered and treatment given. The relationship between Hagley and the Simulation Centre benefits both sets of students and we’re very proud to have been involved since Alex was first launched”.