Federation Uni’s Simulated Home Environment Learning Space brings health science teaching home.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
There’s nothing quite as real as reality. And when it comes to training our aspiring health professionals real-world education and training is paramount. But before we let our nurses and paramedics loose on real-life humans with real-world maladies, the next best thing is sophisticated simulation spaces. Recreating a hospital bed with all its attendant technologies and ‘machines that go ping’ is a tried and tested teaching device. Federation University Australia’s School of Health Sciences Nursing department wanted a simulated domestic space for its nursing students. Essentially, they wanted to place students in a home visit context as realistic as possible. The initial sketchups sent to Ashley Pinder (the uni’s Standard Operating Environment Coordinator, Client Technology – ICT Services) were quite literal: effectively, a cross-sectioned weatherboard house placed at the front of a lecture theatre. After a site was found, Ash set about determining the AV requirements and how to shoehorn those requirements into the modest space. Some months later, almost as a ‘while we’re at it’ adjunct, the ‘Accident Room’ was proposed, comprising a decommissioned ambulance, and a beat up ol’ Ford Laser, for paramedic students to hone their chops. Sharing the same building, the Accident Room joined the AV spec. Ash then turned to the university’s long-time collaborators, ProAV Solutions (née IBS AV). Eventually dubbed the Simulated Home Environment Learning (SHEL) Space, the facility was ready for the beginning of the 2013 academic year and given an honourable mention in the 2013 AVIAs.
The best way to understand the SHEL Space’s AV is to describe it in action. The room accommodates 60-odd students all ranged in front of the SHEL Space. In the top corner is a desk for the simulation co-ordinator. A Simulation Mode on the Crestron touchpanel readies the space — lights on, PTZ cameras enabled, amplifiers and in-ceiling speakers switched on. A scenario is decided on. Let’s say, for example, a patient is ill in the SHEL bedroom. That room will be highlighted, and motorised blinds can obscure the other spaces from the students’ gaze (allowing the next scenario to be set up without distracting the room). Let’s say there are two actors in the bedroom – one ill in bed and a carer. Both actors will be fitted with a Revolabs wireless lipstick mic pack. Unconventionally, the Revolabs system is used for personal monitoring purposes, with the unit belt-clipped and a earpiece connected to the unit’s minijack output. The simulation co-ordinator can speak directly to each earpiece channel via an Australian Monitor gooseneck microphone station. “Have your seizure now,” for example. Alternatively, the co-ordinator can speak to the entire bedroom (Big Brother-like) through an in-ceiling speaker. As the scenario plays out the co-ordinator can focus one of the nine Vaddio HD PTZ cameras within SHEL. The Vaddio cameras have 18x optical zoom – enough to see the a patient’s eyes roll back in their heads. A Crestron camera joystick controller provides single-button access to each of the cameras along with PTZ control. The co-ordinator can cue up a camera on the local monitor and once fine-tuned throw the image to the room, where two LCDs relay proceedings to the students observing.
Full floor-to-ceiling glazing separates the simulation from the students observing. The glass provides a good degree of separation. Within SHEL you feel immersed in the domesticity of what could easily be your grandparent’s family home. The television is on, the plumbing is operational, in fact all of the appliances are functional. It’s enough to give yourself over to the scenario. Beyond the glazing, the auditorium can hear the scenario play out via an Audix M40 conferencing-style cardioid microphone mounted in the ceiling. A pair of Quest eight-inch two-way PA cabinets take care of sound reinforcement in the room. A Crestron Capture HD unit allows the digital video feed to be recorded for ‘coaching and quality’ purposes, and thanks to a firmware upgrade also packs a streaming feature, which Ash is pleased with, even if the necessity to use it hasn’t arisen yet. Once the scenario is complete, the room can be set to Lecture Mode, where motorised blinds close on the windows, a 120-inch LP Morgan Grandview screen drops from the ceiling, and the Sony projector (“we’re about to upgrade to the Sony VPL-FHZ55 laser model, mainly for its instant cool-down as well as extended ‘lamp’ life”) sparks up. A Williamsound IR hearing augmentation system rounds the room out, which apparently hasn’t missed a beat and satisfied the building regulations authority for the building to achieve its Certificate of Occupancy.
Nothing teaches like experience, and the SHEL Space successfully includes many more students in that experience that would ordinarily be possible with conventional teaching methods. It’s an innovative facility borne from back-of-a-napkin sketches, and thanks to AV professionals doing their jobs and harnessing the latest technology, Federation University has something that’s truly the envy of the world.
Adjoining the SHEL Space theatre is an accident simulation room for paramedical training. Populating the area is a decommissioned and donated ambulance (“the most expensive part was the brand new gurney”) and a donated bush-bashing Laser. ProAV installed microphones and cameras into the ambulance (near the driver’s end), to monitor the performance of students. The close proximity of the Vaddio PTZ cameras to the capture area proved challenging. Another ceiling-mounted Audix microphone monitors the room hubub, accompanied by an in-ceiling speaker for Big Brother-style talkback. The action can then be shown live to the screens in the lecture theatre next door – again, with audio.