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U of S 'simulation' helps hundreds of health workers prepare for COVID-19

Our Director of Clinical Learning Services, Mary Freeman, talked to the Star Phoenix about the CLRC's contributions to the Saskatchewan Health Authority's preparations for COVID-19.

Read the full article at The Star Phoenix: https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/u-of-s-simulation-helps-hundreds-of-health-workers-prepare-for-covid-19/

Imitation hospital wards. A team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. A mannequin that coughs when a tube is put into its trachea.

The setting and patient are fake, but the equipment, the doctors and the stakes are all too real.

This is a scene from the University of Saskatchewan’s clinical resource learning centre, a 50,000 square foot “simulation centre” that is now training hundreds of Saskatchewan Health Authority personnel to treat COVID-19.

“We’re like a theatre,” said department of health sciences clinical learning services director Mary Freeman. “We mock up our space to look exactly like the place that people would do this procedure in.” 

The space is normally used by “pre-professionals” at the university like medical, dental and veterinary students. It includes eight nursing wards, “high-fidelity” rooms for the complex procedures and “all the equipment you would see in a real hospital,” Freeman said.

When the pandemic began and classes went online, the facility offered its services to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Most training is around proper use of personal protective equipment like gowns, masks and gloves. Such garments seem simple, but Freeman said teams need to know how to check each others’ PPE to make sure it’s properly worn.

Intubations can bring teams close to a patient’s mouth, which puts them at risk of infection. Sometimes, the centre even adds particles to the mannequin’s cough that later appear under a black light, as a way of checking that masks have done their job.

“Because this virus is so infectious, and because we have no immunity to it, we have to take extra precautions to protect health care professionals so that they don’t get infected,” Freeman said.

She believes the training is helping reinforce teamwork among staff and giving them important training before they may have to perform it on an actual human.

“That is becoming the standard of best practice,” she said.“It’s really not considered ethical anymore to do the procedure on a person for the first time.” 

As of Friday, 36 of Saskatchewan’s 331 confirmed COVID-19 cases are among health staff, though they were not necessarily infected in the line of duty.

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