Ibn Sina Simulation Lab in Thunder Bay Provides Unique “Human Side” Learning Opportunities

From left to right, Dr. Hassan Hassan, Dr. Walid Shahrour, Dr. Syed Zaki Ahmed,

Dr. Yasser Labib and Dr. Stewart Kennedy. The Ibn Sina Simulation Lab

provides inter-professional training for the “human side”

of health care including cultural safety simulations. (Photo Supplied).

By GRAHAM STRONG

The Ibn Sina Simulation Lab that recently opened at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre provides training that goes beyond clinical training to include groundbreaking simulations of the “human side” of providing care.

The academics and inter-professional education program at TBRHSC developed specialized training simulations to help health care professionals address behavioural aspects of care including cultural safety. It’s an approach to health care training that, as far as Kelly Meservia-Collins knows, isn’t done to the same degree anywhere else in the province. The work being done at TBRHSC could lead to a whole new set of best practices in health care.

“It’s really focusing on that human side of things,” said Meservia-Collins, director of academics and inter-professional education at TBRHSC.

“It’s teamwork, it’s communication, it’s leadership in the room. We can learn techniques and skills, but it’s finding how we work together that becomes quite challenging.”

The sim lab provides a physical space for inter-professional training that’s been ongoing at TBRHSC for years, Meservia-Collins said. The lab was named for Ibn Sina, an 11th-century physician recognized as one of the founders of modern medicine. The Muslim Physicians, a group of eleven physicians in Thunder Bay who together contributed $500,000 to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation towards its launch, named the lab.

From the clinical side alone, the sim lab offers many opportunities to improve. Simulation in a safe space can help prepare all levels of health care professionals from new learner to experienced leaders learning new skills or practicing rare and complex procedures. Meservia-Collins gave the example of a Code Blue situation where a patient was in breathing distress.

“One of the nurses said (to me after the event), ‘I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to practice this before it happened because I knew exactly what to do when it did happen.’ The confidence in your ability to respond to an emergency increases when you’ve had an opportunity to practice it in that safe environment,” Meservia-Collins said.

What’s interesting is that the more life-like the mannequin, the more likely it is to trigger human emotions during those practice sessions. That’s where the use of better technology to simulate patients, not just situations, can help. Stress levels, sense of urgency, and empathy in the health care professionals all affect patient care. The more realistic the simulation, the better the training.

“It’s amazing. When you see people come into the sim, you always see someone pull a blanket up and tuck (the mannequin) in,” she said.

But there is more to the human side that can be explored.

One of the key situations flight simulator scenarios address is the interactions between pilot and co-pilot, which history has shown can have a profound effect on the outcome during an emergency situation. Multiply that by several more health care professionals in a room, and the human interactions become even more complex.

“We’re human and not everything is perfect,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for our staff to learn (inter-professionally) in safe environments,” said Meservia-Collins.

All humans have biases and assumptions based on culture, upbringing, and societal influences. Consciously or sub-consciously, these biases can affect care.

“We were one of the first programs that tackled cultural safety through simulation. We looked at disruptions in teams, using simulation to go there. We’ve tackled some difficult topics.”

Trying to find these shortcomings and addressing them provide an obvious benefit to patient care.

“There are a few areas that we would like to improve on in the care that we give,” Meservia-Collins said. These include Indigenous health, mental health care, and seniors’ health, which are three of the five strategic directions at TBRHSC. Simulation can also spark conversations among team members and raise self-awareness in individuals.

“It’s just getting down to the assumptions and biases that we have and how it can impact our behaviour.”

As a regional academic health sciences centre, the program is exploring ways it can help other hospitals and health care professionals take advantage of the sim lab. There are already formal and informal partnerships in place with other institutions in Thunder Bay including the Northern Ontario Medical School (NOSM), Lakehead University, and Confederation College. It is also looking at new equipment to bring into the lab including a “Sim Mother” that can deliver a mannequin baby to simulate high-risk situations for better training.

“We are looking at who our population is, we are seeing our health care providers as human, and embracing that in our learning model.”

Filed in: Education, News, Research

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