How lifelike mannequins are boosting medical training

by L&D06 Jun 2017
Waikato Hospital, located in the New Zealand city of Hamilton, is one of many hospitals rolling out a world-leading simulation program for its medical staff.

The hospital’s Multidisciplinary Operating Room Simulation program (MORSim) brings together surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, anaesthetic technicians and orderlies for training in a real theatre environment.

The program – developed by Auckland University – is also designed to enhance staff teamwork and communication skills.

However, its centrepiece is a humanoid robot named ‘James Reynolds’, who has a heartbeat, can breathe, blink and even talk.

Reynolds serves as a realistic mannequin upon which medical staff can practice and refine their skills without causing any real harm.

“Often when we train with simulation training, we just train as a group of surgeons or just as a group of anaesthetists, and that's not very realistic to the way that we normally work,” Waikato DHB anaesthetist Jeff Hoskins told

“The unique thing about MORSim is that the surgeons and anaesthetists and the theatre nurses and anaesthetic technicians are all working together in the teams in which we normally work.”

Currently, Reynolds is an elderly man whose back story reveals he lives in a rest home and his daughter has power of attorney over his affairs.

In the future, the robot might be changed to resemble an obese patient, or a young woman.

"The special thing about the MORSim programme is that the robots are not only able to respond to an anaesthetic, but they also have extremely realistic surgical wounds that the surgeon needs to do something to," Hoskins said.

Auckland University professor of anaesthesia, Jennifer Weller, said using the realistic manikins made it easier for theatre members to buy into the scenarios. The program also allows participants to work together as a team in a crisis event.

“There's a huge amount of evidence that a lot of patient harm is due to a failure in communicating information about a patient and communicating the surgical plan between the teams,” she said.

“Reynolds’ back story turns him into a real person and is part of the clinical information that the team needs in order to be able to treat him appropriately.”

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