Mannequins ‘talk’ to nurses on dummy run

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STUDENT nurses from Yorkshire have become the first in the world to use state-of-the-art augmented reality technology to bring dummy mannequin patients to life.

Using the approach, students at Sheffield Hallam University hold iPad tablets which display computer-generated images of a patient overlaid onto a dummy which begins speaking with a real-life account of illness.

The technique is designed to check students’ communications skills but importantly also tests their empathy, one of the key areas highlighted in the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust scandal which criticised staff for lacking compassion and failing to ensure basic dignity of patients.

Senior lecturer in nursing Mandy Brailsford said a range of illnesses were captured using the technology and it had made a real difference for students as they dealt with a patient whose condition was deteriorating.

“It affords us the opportunity to see how students react to patients so we can assess their care and compassion in an environment where they’re not with real patients and give them feedback,” she said.

“The key for me is the eyes – you look at the screen and get eye contact and you really feel you need to do something to help.”

Student nurse Jonathan Beatson, 46, of Sheffield, said it made training a more personal experience.

“It really brings it to life and makes it more real,” he said. “It’s about observing the whole person and verbal and non-verbal signs like seeing the pain in their face.”

Fellow student Deborah Easby, 39, of Shireoaks, near Worksop, said: “I think it helps you get straight into the role that you need to deal with their needs. It helps nurses look deeper into potential problems – why they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing.”

A team from the university plans to showcase the technology to an international audience at a conference in San Francisco.