Tucked away in the back of the John Radcliffe Hospital is the University of Oxford’s state-of-the-art medical simulation, teaching and research facility. Oxford Simulation, Teaching and Research (OxSTaR), led by Dr Helen Higham, is part of the Nuffield Division of Anaesthetics in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. OxSTaR runs simulated scenarios – complete with highly realistic functioning models of patients known as ‘manikins’ – to understand and improve how healthcare professionals work together and interact with their environment and equipment.
The insights gained help them provide training across Oxford University Hospitals, with the support of the Trust’s Practice Development and Education and Infection Prevention and Control teams, the Chief Medical and Nursing Officers and Oxford Medical Imaging. COVID-19 has presented new challenges for the Trust’s intensive care and emergency staff. OxSTaR’s training has been invaluable not only to healthcare staff redeployed or returning from retirement, but also for seasoned professionals.
Training staff in new COVID-19 procedures
The first phase of OxSTaR’s involvement in the Trust’s COVID-19 response was developing educational materials, in collaboration with the OUH Infection Prevention and Control team, about how to put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE) safely. The second phase involved training in techniques to assist patients’ breathing, and the third phase included ‘human factors’ training – equipping medical teams to work together to maintain patient safety. A growing library of training materials has been uploaded to the OxSTaR website, and is now being used by healthcare professionals all over the world. Facilities at OxSTaR have also proved useful for testing new devices, including a new ventilator developed by researchers from the University of Oxford with King’s College London, submitted for testing by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Collaboration to leave a lasting legacy
In addition to the work undertaken with OxSTaR, Practice Development and Education teams across the Trust have responded magnificently to COVID-19. Teams have undertaken a fundamental review of their work streams and worked with OxSTaR, particularly on PPE training and simulation, to ensure that education and training provision is meeting immediate and foreseeable need. Since mid-March 2020, education teams across the Trust have trained over 7,7892 staff on COVID-19 specific programmes, including the use of PPE and respirators, intensive care updates and ‘back to the ward’ refresher training. Work continues to support staff on a wide range of initiatives to ensure ongoing patient safety.
Training in the Trust is carried out with the support of the Trust’s expert in-house graphic design, print, video production and photography team called Oxford Medical Illustration (OMI), which is responsible for producing printed online resources, training videos and multimedia e-learning modules to complement the hands-on training provide by OxSTaR and Practice Development and Education. As new types of PPE were introduced in the Trust, and their use became a requirement in all clinical areas, it became clear that there was need for the Trust’s education teams to join forces to guarantee a standardised approach.
A positive collaboration between the OUH Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team, OxSTaR and Practice Development and Education teams has allowed them to share their expertise and deliver training to all clinical staff in line with national guidance. With the support of the Trust’s Communications team and OMI, the IPC team has ensured our staff have had easy access to the most up-to-date information, at a time when national advice changed repeatedly as the understanding of the disease improved.
Thanks to the hard work of other teams, such as Procurement, they have also been able to continue to support staff with training and advice on a wider scale, moving to a train-the-trainer approach. The legacy will be long-lasting: new relationships across and beyond the hospitals have been forged, and existing relationships reinforced. The enhancements to both patient and staff safety will persist well into the future. Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer for the Trust, said:
“I am enormously proud of the work that our teams are undertaking across the Trust, which reflects the world-class reputation this organisation has for patient care and clinical education”.
The Trust’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Meghana Pandit, added: “There has been a fantastic effort by our teams across the Trust to enhance the skills and knowledge that our staff need, to safely and effectively care for patients with COVID-19. “Not only is this invaluable to our response to the current crisis, it will have a massive impact on our ability to care for our patients going forward.”