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University showcases state-of-the-art health technology at Science Fair


Sharlene King
17 August 2011
Southern Cross University’s state-of-the-art mobile health laboratory is on the road and heading to the Gold Coast Science Fair this weekend, filled with a trailer-load of tips on career options and living a healthier lifestyle.

Housed in a semi-trailer and built with a federal government clinical training grant worth $1.4 million, the mobile health facility has expanding side capsules and includes two full sized hospital beds, a patient care chair, an infant cot and the very latest in real-life like health simulation equipment: SimMan 3G, SimBaby and SimNewB patient simulators.

“The mannequins breathe, talk and cough,” said Erich Wittstock, technical manager with the University’s School of Health and Human Sciences.

“They blink and respond with pupil dilation to light shining in their eyes. You can feel the mannequins’ heartbeat and take their blood pressure, too,” he said.

“It is possible to simulate all sorts of critical heart conditions, measurable with an ECG. Heart attacks and strokes can be lifelike simulated, inclusive of tremors. Lung and airways conditions can be simulated such as asthma attacks - all initiated and controlled wirelessly via tablet PCs.”

Southern Cross University’s health truck will be set up in Auto Alley.

The Gold Coast Science Fair runs from August 20 to 21 at Varsity College, Varsity Lakes, and provides families and prospective students with a fun, practical and informative insight into scientific and technological advancements and career options.

Technical officers from the University’s nursing department will be in the truck, running scenarios with five patient simulators: two adults, two babies and one newborn.

“Instead of our nursing students working on real patients to begin with, we make the experience as life-like as possible,” Mr Wittstock said.

“In this way students can practise and improve their skills and learn from their mistakes. Health related scenarios can be repeated and can go into extreme conditions without putting someone in danger. That’s the great thing about these simulation dummies. They are patient simulators - but incredibly life-like in what they simulate. They are a very valuable learning tool to develop the necessary skills for the real world, inclusive of confidence.”

The patient simulators are controlled by laptops hidden inside, while a compressor and a series of valves and other complex technology create the effects of breathing, sweating and tears. The mannequins can also bleed from wounds.

“The whole system is wireless and the person controlling the scenario can be in a separate room watching what unfolds and responding to the student’s decision-making - a great learning and outcome assessment environment,” Mr Wittstock said.

The University’s student recruitment staff will be at the Gold Coast Science Fair to offer information on study options at Southern Cross, while student ambassadors can talk firsthand about the student experience.
Photo: (left to right) Technical officer Jan Murphy and clinical teacher leader Libby Barry check on the health of the 'babies' in the mobile health facility.