UTS launches robotic nursing labs

Mar 30, 2012 7:28 AM
Government-funded labs support clinical training.

The University of Technology Sydney has launched nine new nursing laboratories featuring “robot patients” that talk, breathe, bleed and sweat.

The laboratories were constructed with $2.4 million in Commonwealth funding and $2.6 million from the university and opened by Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek yesterday.

Up to 50 mannequins have been installed in the laboratories to simulate patient behaviours.

Basic models mimic body parts and blood pressure, while four more advanced, computer-controlled mannequins can be configured to breathe, bleed, speak and cry.

Three high-end mannequins – the SimMan 3G, SimMan and SimNewbi – were delivered by technology vendor Laerdal last October.

Each of the mannequins is attached to a Laerdal-supplied desktop PC, pre-loaded with proprietary software for configuring its behaviour.

The PCs are installed in “control rooms” within the laboratories, where training staff watch their students through one-way glass.

UTS’ nursing, midwifery and health lecturer Michelle Kelly said the faculty could not access Laerdal’s proprietary code, but had employed a mechatronics engineering student to configure the mannequins.

Another robotic mannequin, purchased from simulation technology vendor Meti, was less frequently used because it ran on a different, Apple Macintosh-based platform, she said.

The laboratories also feature audio-visual technology including cameras and screens for live-streaming and watching recorded training sessions.

Minister Plibersek said the Government’s investment in the laboratories recognised “the importance of nursing and its expanding role in caring for patients”.

She said the mannequins had realistic human features and would provide students with the practical experience they needed to complete clinical training.