Virtual reality, technology and resilience: Post-Pandemic Education forum on the future of healthcare in western Sydney

WSLHD Post Pandemic Education Forum. Graeme Loy (WSLHD CE)

Some of the brightest minds in education and healthcare in Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) gathered at the Post-Pandemic Education (PPE) forum to evaluate the shape of the health system in western Sydney after adapting to COVID-19.

WSLHD’s Research and Education Network (REN) played host inside the Parramatta Square Business and Events Centre where the main theme was leveraging technology to enhance education and practice opportunities for all staff working in WSLHD. This involved panels, table discussions and Zoom addresses from experts in the digital health space.

Esteemed guests included Ms Susan Pearce, NSW Health Secretary, who delivered a keynote address dissecting the challenges presented by the pandemic, and how agility was an advantage when reacting to the evolving situation.

“I think that there is an opportunity for us now to not just go back to business as usual and let all of this fall back into the background. The pandemic did happen and its effects were long-lasting, but they don’t all have to be negative,” Ms Pearce said.

One of the key areas Ms Pearce addressed at the two-day event, which ran on 12 and 13 October,  concerned the spectrum of skills health staff need to possess and how these areas can be better captured in learning environments.

WSLHD Post Pandemic Education Forum. Susan Pearce (Secretary of Health NSW)

“How do we educate our staff about the fact that while technical skills are important, human skills are equally as important? All of the stories you hear about people’s experiences in the health system are about how they felt, it’s rarely about the clinical care that they received.

“Our health system is tired – what do we do to give something to look forward to into the future and how do we start to adjust our thinking around that?”

Graeme Loy, WSLHD’s Chief Executive, also touched on the importance of professional development for a holistic learning and working environment.

“The backbone of where we go and the strategy for the future must always be centred around education, improvement and growth – and not just from a clinical perspective, but from a professional perspective and a workforce perspective,” Mr Loy said.

WSLHD Post Pandemic Education Forum. Graeme Loy (WSLHD CE)

“A lot has happened over the past two years, and there are a lot of opportunities for us to think about how we leverage that to take us forward. We want to stimulate the thinking around what our professional education looks like moving forward.

“Traditional models of education have been fantastic and have served us well over many, many decades, but the opportunity to think differently has presented itself over the past two years.”

An example of this is the role technology has played in facilitating access to services during the pandemic, with the growth of telehealth transforming the healthcare space.

Nathan Moore, Chief Nursing Information Officer at WSLHD, said that emerging tools like virtual reality are the next big step for clinician education.

“The pandemic has shown us that the approaches we were taking are no longer exclusively fit for purpose, so we need to find new ways to meet the needs of our clinicians,” he said.