PeriopSim, a virtual reality training tool for operating room nurses, has been rolled out across four New Brunswick hospitals, according to the Horizon Health Network. Submitted/Horizon Health Network

When a band starts playing a new song, performances can be stiff for the first handful of times until they get confident and build muscle memory.

A new training tool coming to four Horizon Health Network hospitals will let new operating room nurses get that kind of practice in – without needing a patient on the table.

Horizon announced Tuesday that they’ve rolled out PeriopSim virtual reality simulators to hospitals in Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton and Miramichi. The technology puts trainees in an immersive environment and provides ways to assess their reaction time and accuracy in surgery environments and move through different types of surgery scenarios faster.

“You can imagine surgery like a band, you’ve got multiple people in different roles … but you don’t really have a way to practice your instrument or practice your position prior to going to surgery, and that’s what PeriopSim brings to the table,” Angela Robert, CEO of Conquer Experience, the Surrey, B.C.-based company that makes the technology, told the Telegraph-Journal.

“It’s you being prepared to do your job very well and develop the muscle memory … for being in that role.”

In a press release, Amy McCavour, co-lead of Horizon Surgical Services and Intensive Care, said this will help nursing staff gain competency “before they step in the OR room,” adding it will “significantly optimize training time for nurses and allow them to feel more confident … helping ensure the delivery of safe and quality care to our patients.”

A representative from Horizon was not available by press time.

Robert, who worked on sports video games for Electronic Arts such as the Skate series, said that typically, OR training is not provided as part of nursing school, and is a six to 12-month process which includes job shadowing with surgeons who each have their own style. To get a rehearsal in, you need the time – and a patient, she said.

“How would you get someone to practice a surgery without a patient, without a team? It’s expensive and almost impossible to do,” she said. “A lot of time, the first time a nurse goes in, they’ve never rehearsed, the whole group of them have never rehearsed before.”

Robert said the VR technology enables a trainee to experience an hour-long procedure in 10 minutes by including just the parts that would require a nurse’s attention. If a trainee needs 12 different types of experiences, then they’d be able to complete half of those in an hour, rather than six, she said.

“Every single step of the procedure, you’re being evaluated … are you fast enough? Are you handing things to a surgeon before a surgeon asks for it?” she said. “If you’re just observing, it’s really hard to get that detail.”

Surgeries that can be simulated by the software range from general procedures like hernia repair and gallbladder removal to orthopedic surgery like joint replacement to neurosurgery, like burr hole surgeries which relieve pressure, according to a press release.

“You get completely immersed, that’s what the nurses really say, they’re in this environment and it’s surprising,” Robert said. “You put on this headset and take it off, and it feels like you’re in that operating room.”

She said the surgeries being simulated are real procedures done by real surgeons, and compared it to sports games where developers consult with the pros to make sure the program reflects what they see in real life. Robert said they’re “nice” versions of the operations, meant to build muscle memory and the “confidence to walk into the operating room.”

Development began in 2014 and the program came to market in 2018, Robert said, with 400,000 procedures ran through the service and 5,000 trainees. The company has a four-person Halifax office, and she said that some of the software’s testers were on the east coast. The program was first offered to hospitals but at the start of the pandemic they began work on an at-home version and grew the program that way.

With burnout and turnover affecting staffing levels, Robert said this is a way to get people ready to step in.

“It’s a problem that’s being experienced globally,” she said. “The real success is that health care systems are investing in this technology to make training better for new nurses and better for the patients.”

According to a press release from Horizon, educators have been trained on the software and staff are using it at The Moncton Hospital, Saint John Regional Hospital, Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, and Miramichi Regional Hospital.

By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 30, 2023 at 10:37

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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