Paramedics, doctors, surgeons and pharmacists get training boost from Ireland healthcare project

Find out how a state-of-the-art Ireland healthcare training helps medical students from all over the world.

  • Providing previously unimaginable training through ‘real life’ simulations using special mannequins
  • Helping students record and evaluate their performance with support from peers and colleagues—without risk to patients
  • Hospitals feel the benefits already as visiting medical students are “much calmer”
  • When do patients “have a good cry”

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Advanced Ireland healthcare

Judith Gilroy, associate director for academic affairs at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) believes “we have Europe’s most advanced simulation and clinical skills facility.”

The glass, steel and brick structure is impressive and has found favour with people far beyond the medical profession. It was recently declared ‘Ireland’s Favourite Building’ during a public vote for architectural awards.

The facility consists of a sports centre, 500-seat lecture theatre, extensive library and three floors of clinical simulation facilities. Some are located underground, to make the most of the site’s limited space in the center Dublin.

Two centuries of Ireland healthcare

Students have been passing through RCSI for over two centuries, but with the new facility innovative learning methods have opened up.

“Simulation facilities are at the heart of this building, but they're really at the heart of our educational philosophy at RCSI,” explains Gilroy. “We want to educate health professionals who are going to transform patient care. We wanted to make sure that they’re developing their skills in a safe, feedback-rich environment.”

Students get to practice on highly sophisticated lifelike mannequins manufactured by a company better known for making flight simulators.

They allow students to get first-hand experience at dealing with a range of medical emergencies. These allow the would-be medics to take part in highly realistic situations they are likely to encounter, including complications during births and traumatic injuries. Some students have fainted thanks to the realism of the scenarios they have faced.

Gilroy demonstrates the possibilities through a mannequin nicknamed Lucina, who has “given birth” over 500 times in the past year. Lucina can be programmed to endure all manner of complications at every stage of the birthing process. Her features include a pulse and the ability to scream and issue demands. Even her eyes can be set to show specific symptoms.

“The students have to respond to scenarios as they unfold. It’s hard to tell the difference between this and a real operating theatre,” says Gilroy, “so you get a deep learning experience. We call it cognitive integration. It sticks in the learner’s head”.

Improving healthcare skills at every level

Working closely with RCSI over a few years, the EIB’s investment has assisted in four key areas:

  • The construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art training and research facility, in the center of Dublin, with facilities to assist a range of healthcare professionals at every level of their careers.
  • Investment in a highly advanced simulation system, that allows students unprecedented experience in dealing with with a range of medical emergencies they are likely to encounter, all of which can be closely reviewed and evaluated. 
  • The creation of a spacious, adaptable learning environment for the differing needs of a diverse student body, 70% of which comes from outside Ireland.
  • Ensuring a smooth and rapid inauguration of the facility, on budget and fully functioning from its first day. Without EIB investment, it would have taken a number of years to get the simulation facilities working at full capacity.

The new RCSI facility was very costly, but the EIB’s backing—amounting to a loan of €50 million—was very important in ensuring the reality met the vision of its planners. Avrille Palha is an EIB loan officer responsible for lending to the higher education sector in Ireland:

“This project is unique in that not only does it include the construction of the largest surgical simulation centre in Europe, but it pioneers innovation in medical education, seeking to promote better health in Europe through research programmes.”

The building started operating in late 2017 and according to Judith Gilroy the Royal College quickly saw results. “Within a couple of weeks we had staff from other hospitals where our students went, ringing us saying, ‘What are you doing differently? They’re much calmer, they’re much more useful.’ That’s what we’d hoped and that’s what this building does for us”

The EIB’s Avrille Palha agrees. “I attended the unveiling ceremony in June this year and I was filled with pride at our involvement. It is a significant project not only for Ireland, but also for Europe.