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What-if.com: online program simulates emergencies

An online education program aims to boost nurses' emergency management skills using simulations of deteriorating patients.

The program, FIRST2ACTweb (Feedback Incorporating Review and Simulation Techniques to Act on Clinical Trends), was developed by Monash University researchers, the University of Queensland, Deakin University and Federation Training, along with international institutions.

FIRST2ACTweb was developed in reaction to concerns amongst professionals and medical researchers that patients who were deteriorating were often mismanaged, said lead developer associate professor Simon Cooper, head of the school of nursing and midwifery at Monash University’s Berwick campus.

He said reports showed key signs were missed in up to 46 per cent of cases in hospitals. “There is a tendency not to notice that vital signs are getting worse and a lack of understanding of the things to do when patients are gradually deteriorating – including a failure to call for help when required,” he explained.

Cooper added that as sudden deterioration is not frequently encountered, healthcare staff might become deskilled in the area.

Users of FIRST2ACTweb navigate three scenarios in which professional actors play patients who are deteriorating. There is feedback on whether the appropriate treatments or procedures are used.

“We were able to do a lot of analysis on quizzes [done] before and after the program, so we know that their knowledge improves significantly,” Cooper said.

He says the program is easily accessed and can be used at any time, adding that users have stated the scenarios and simulations are realistic.

FIRST2ACTweb is intended for use along with face-to-face teaching. The program was initially developed for third-year Australian nursing students, but Cooper said practising healthcare workers in Australia and overseas, as well as lay people, could all use the tool.

“We know from the feedback that qualified nurses and other professionals are using it with positive benefits,” he said.

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