In preparing people for the real world of medicine, sometimes you just have to fake it.
And if Dr. John Ross has his way, simulation training will play a bigger role in the health system.
Ross, who is better known as the province’s emergency medicine adviser, has been director of simulation at the Dalhousie medical school since January.
“It’s being used more and more,” Ross said in an interview Monday. “There are probably several factors; one is that people are more aware of patient safety as being something we should spend more (time) on.”
The use of devices such as mannequins and role-playing has long been used in medical training, he said. The mannequins are now computerized and advancing technology has also led to more sophisticated tools such as 3-D computer programs that allow a student to practise surgery.
Besides the Dalhousie program, others such as the Nova Scotia Community College and Emergency Health Services also offer simulation training. A network that brings together the various programs would save money and make the training more accessible, Ross said.
“We can start sharing those more effectively around the province by having them transported to different sites in Sydney or Kentville, the larger centres around the province where they can start using that equipment. You’re more likely to get more people trained if you can take it close to home.”
Ross’s recommendations on improving emergency care emphasize the creation of collaborative-care teams of doctors, nurses and other health-care providers. Simulation training could help these teams and others already working in the medical system keep their skills sharp, he said.
As for his emergency-care adviser role, Ross said it is in the process of being downsized as his recommendations are gradually put in place.
“At this point, it’s still going. I speak regularly with the deputy (health minister, Kevin McNamara). I’ve been talking to some of the health authorities. . . . I think I’m going to make myself as obsolete as possible.”
Ross said he wasn’t worried that deep budget cuts recently announced at the various health authorities threatened the implementation of his report.
“I’m hoping that these kinds of pressures do provoke innovation, and I think they often do. Many of the recommendations in the report were not necessarily big-dollar items. I don’t see it as a threat to anything that was recommended.”
The province’s emergency-care plan would see some rural departments replaced by collaborative clinics. During the day, the clinic’s staff could include family doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians and other health-care providers.
But from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., the clinics would be staffed by a nurse who would contact doctors, paramedics and other hospitals through “tele-consulting” technology.
The first collaborative-care centre recently opened in Parrsboro.