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General surgery registrar Layla Hehir yesterday received the Health Quality and Safety Commission Open for Leadership award.
Ms Hehir’s interest in simulations as training tools was piqued when studying in her native Ireland, and after coming to Dunedin she joined forces with DHB clinical skills laboratory co-director Ohad Dar to develop the award-winning programme.
Ms Hehir has devised a range of "pop-up" simulation programmes where DHB staff are required to deal with a mannequin patient in a safe way, in a range of situations.
"It’s about being able to practise emergencies, but also day-to-day healthcare, in a safe environment, as opposed to actually doing something for the first time for real when you are on a ward.
"The simulations we are doing are on the ward, using real equipment in a real environment, so we can get people to practise effectively for when similar events happen in real life."
In the current simulations, staff encounter a patient who is deteriorating and are meant to establish what their condition is and put measures in place to deal with it before techniques such as CPR become necessary.
"We intend to get more complicated as we get more used to the equipment and staff get more used to the simulations."
Ms Hehir’s work had already won a Southern Innovation Challenge award before being nominated by Southern DHB for national recognition.
At the moment training sessions are scheduled, but eventually Ms Hehir hoped they would be surprises for staff — replicating the sudden emergencies that can arise in hospitals.
"We’ve focused initially on emergency situations but we’re going to branch out and do everything," Ms Hehir said.
"We’ve put a survey out to staff and asked them what they want, and based on the things that have got the highest responses we’re going to do those first."
The programme will expand this year, with a simulation specialist visiting to teach interested staff how to run simulations in their own departments.