University boosts commitment to Westmead, with 'futuristic' training fitout

6 December 2022
Investing in a health workforce for the future
An innovative research and teaching space at the Westmead Health Precinct will better prepare medical and nursing students for clinical practice, with the University of Sydney announcing a $10M investment for a futuristic fit out.

The new facility located on level six of the Westmead Innovation Centre (WIC) will use virtual reality and artificial intelligence—alongside life-like mannequins which can ‘breathe’, blink their eyes and ‘speak’—to educate students on managing high-risk events such as cardiac arrests or de-escalating aggressive patients.

“This new funding underlines our longstanding commitment to the Westmead Health Precinct,” said University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott AO.

“The University has proudly been part of Westmead Hospital since its inception more than 40 years ago. Today’s investment will help train the next generation of Australia’s health workers and bring vital new skills into Western Sydney.” 

The Westmead Innovation Centre

This new funding underlines our longstanding commitment to the Westmead Health Precinct
Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mark Scott AO

Included in the development, opening in mid-2023, is a 16-bed simulation ward utilising virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence to emulate high-risk scenarios demonstrating, for instance, how to manage violent outbursts by patients.

The nursing simulation clinic in the Susan Wakil Health Building, opened last year.

Using realistic rehearsal environments and lifelike avatars, the simulation ward and its adjoining media lab will recreate high-stakes, low-frequency events allowing students to practice skills and decision making so they are better prepared when these events occur in a clinical setting.

The industry-leading work in virtual reality is a partnership between the University of Sydney and Western Sydney Local Health District.

Using VR headsets, the ALS-SimVR app allows clinicians to rehearse the skills necessary to perform the role of Team Leader in advanced life support (ALS) responses to cardiac emergencies. This rehearsal prepares clinicians for formal accreditation, or re-accreditation, as a member of an ALS team. Used in conjunction with traditional Sim-Lab mannequins, clinicians using the ALS-SimVR app receive feedback on variables such as drug choice and dosage, whether a heart rhythm is correctly identified and vital information when using CPR to resuscitate a patient.

Student experimenting with a virtual reality headset

Student experimenting with a virtual reality headset

Nurses will also get access to the Code Black VR app, a standalone tool used to prepare clinicians to deal with aggressive patients. Code Black allows users to experience a coordinated take-down in a confronting, but safe, environment. It gives clinicians an opportunity to rehearse their verbal de-escalation skills and to notice early signs of aggressive behaviour, equipping them to deal with potentially violent situations in the clinical workplace.

“Virtual reality is revolutionising healthcare by creating virtual experiences that allow medical professionals to be immersed in a low-risk environment where they can get hands-on experience,” said Professor Robyn Ward AM, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Medicine and Health.

“We’re thrilled to continue building our presence at the Westmead Health Precinct, and the partnership between the University, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Western Sydney Local Health District.”

The 1190 square metre facility will also include a dedicated innovation space designed to foster a collaborative culture that sparks new ideas. This co-working space will be available to startups, non-profits and corporates looking to work with clinicians, researchers and students at the Westmead Health Precinct.

The $10 million Westmead Innovation Centre investment builds upon the University of Sydney’s longstanding medical teaching and training relationship with Westmead.  

It is in addition to the $88 million the University has already invested in Westmead Hospital's Central Acute Services Building, with both buildings owned by the Western Sydney Local Health District.

These investments reflect the University’s strong commitment to expanding our education presence in Western Sydney as part of our 2032 Strategy.

Michelle Blowes

Media & PR Adviser (Medicine and Health)

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