Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and ‘speaking’ mannequins: Inside the plans for the new training facility at Westmead Hospital

From ‘breathing’ mannequins to virtual reality (VR), Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) new facility at the Westmead Innovation Centre (WIC) will be a leap forward in the future of healthcare education and research.

With a 16-bed simulation ward, medical and nursing students will be able to use the cutting-edge technology for training on high-risk scenarios and management of patients.

This facility is a partnership with the University of Sydney, following a $10m investment from the education giant in the upcoming generation of students.

The development is expected to open on level six of the WIC in mid-2023.

It will include realistic environments and lifelike avatars, including mannequins that can ‘breathe’, blink and ‘speak’ to expose students to events like cardiac arrests.

Another feature of the facility is the implementation of the Code Black VR app, developed by the WSLHD team, which recently won a Simulation Australasia award for innovation.

This will allow nurses to train and prepare for aggressive patients and confronting situations in a controlled environment.

VR headsets also opens the capacity for training with the ALS-SimVR app, allowing clinicians to practice skills needed as a Team Leader in advanced life support (ALS) responses for cardiac emergencies.

“At WSLHD, we’re really passionate about the use of technology to improve our clinical practice. One of the areas we’ve been exploring over the past few years is virtual reality to supplement clinician education,” WSLHD Chief Nursing Information Officer, Nathan Moore said.

“The scalability and the flexibility that VR brings in creating these immersive environments – allowing you to create these situations that are otherwise really difficult to recreate is really powerful.”

This facility will also house co-working spaces for teams to brainstorm and collaborate, which will be available for start-ups, non-profits and businesses wanting to work with WSLHD staff.