New clinical simulation suite in operation at the Waterford Integrated Care for Older People centre

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One of the features of the Research and Training Unit attached to the recently completed Waterford Integrated Care for Older People (WICOP) Centre at the St. Patrick’s Hospital building, Waterford has gone into operation.

The HSE said the new Gerontological Simulation Laboratory (Sim Lab) at the WICOP centre would provide immersive and hands-on learning experiences for healthcare professionals and students.

“The lab at WICOP has been developed to facilitate replication of healthcare or home environments and will be used to immerse students in a clinical experience. In addition to the realistic environment, the lab has been equipped with high-fidelity camera and audio equipment allowing for unobtrusive observation & sharing of the simulated experience.

“Being able to safely practise gerontological skills in a controlled environment helps participants build confidence and trust in their own abilities. Repetition and different scenarios help participants perfect their skills and are preparation for comfortable working with real patients. The team can rehearse practical skills and psychomotor, critical thinking, decision-making, and bedside manner skills while in the Sim lab. There will be a very strong emphasis on the development of communication skills which are core to gerontological practice.

“Upon residents and staff of St. Patrick’s Hospital having been transferred to the adjacent new Waterford Residential Care Centre in 2020, a €750,000 programme reconfiguration work began on the space left vacant. The new WICOP centre at St. Patrick’s is a project inclusive of moving services previously provided by the programme at premises in University Hospital Waterford. The new centre incorporates a unit specialising in research and training in Medicine for the Elderly and as a resource for others involved with the care of older people.”

The HSE said the simulation project had succeeded through partnership with the National Clinical Programme for Older People, the ASSERT Centre at UCC, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and the National Doctors Training & Planning team (NDTP).

“Utilising a Multi-Disciplinary Team approach, combining geriatric and other specialist care services from UHW, a range of community and social care professionals from HSE/South East Community Healthcare and the input of GP and primary care services in the Waterford and South Kilkenny areas, the WICOP Centre aims to support clients living in their homes and communities for as long as possible and to avoid hospital admission.

“Importantly, the HSE has funded a simulation fellow to launch the project in years 1 & 2. Dr Emily Buckley has already organised a number of simulation events within the facility and she herself is completing a doctoral research project exploring the gerontological competencies required by doctors working within other specialties that frequently look after older clients.”

Speaking as the Gerontological Simulation Laboratory began operation at the WICOP centre in Waterford, Professor John Cooke (WICOP Project Lead and Consultant Physician/Medicine for the Elderly at UHW) said, “We now have a state of the art, purpose built centre at St. Patrick’s in Waterford. This will be a key element in the development of excellent services for older adults in Waterford. The reality of population projections is that the numbers of older adults needing healthcare will increase substantially in the next few years. The vast majority of these healthcare contacts will be with healthcare professionals working outside of the specialty of gerontology. It is crucial therefore that specialist services such as our own ensure that core gerontological principles are shared with all healthcare professionals. The best way to convey these interprofessional and communication skills is through the medium of simulation.” 

Neville Coen (Operational Team Lead, WICOP) said,

“Various clinical professionals are involved in the care of older people. Resourcing integrated care allows the HSE to support older adults within environments optimised to their current needs. From its foundation some years ago through co-operation by UHW, the HSE’s Integrated Care Programme for Older Persons, HSE/South East Community Healthcare and the WICOP, it has been an ambitious project and these new developments at St. Patrick’s will help the HSE both to streamline health and social care for the most complex cohort of older adults and to encourage participation in this important sphere of medicine.”