Physiotherapy students at Ballarat’s ACU campus are reaping the benefits of one of the most hands-on, high-tech teaching labs in the country.
The physio lab, complete with eight-bed mock hospital ward, high tech mannequins, video monitoring and two-way mirrors, opened last year as part of the uni’s new $12 million St Brigid Health Sciences building.
One of its most popular residents is a $100,000 high fedelity simulator mannequin who can breathe, talk, cough, has a pulse and can be programmed to cough up fake sputum.
Associate Professor Rebecca Lane, deputy head of the ACU school of allied health, said the Ballarat simulator lab was the only one of its kind for physiotherapy students in Victoria, and one of the most advanced in the country.
“In the past undergraduate students mainly practiced on each other, which is a poor low-fidelity simulation, and when they went in to clinical practice in the final year of the program they got to practice on real people,” Ms Lane said.
“The simulator lab provides very objective and repeatable learning opportunities so every students gets the same experience and is assessed in the same way.”
Ms Lane said simulators were better known for use in nursing courses, but they were invaluable for physiotherapy students.
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“We predominately use them for cardio respiratory physiotherapy. A huge amount of the physio population in public hospital look after these patients recovering from heart surgery, lung surgery, bowel surgery where pneumonia is biggest cause of death and physiotherapy is critical in breaking that cycle of lung infection.”
The hospital ward where simulation exercises takes place also has video cameras recording the students, and two way mirrors so staff and other students can watch the actions being carried out.
“That sort of additional level of feedback really closes that loop of … applying feedback to the next time to improve practice,” Ms Lane said.
“We see simulator experience like this improves student practice by up to 25 per cent compared to students that just go to normal clinics.”
Demonstrations of the ACU Physiotherapy simulations labs will run during the Australian Catholic University’s Open Day on August 26.