Work has begun on a college’s hi-tech healthcare suite to train the next generation of medical professionals.

Artificial intelligence mannequins will allow staff at Darlington College to create a host of health and social care scenarios at its latest facility, which will feature a hospital ward, GP surgery and nursing home settings.

The state-of-the-art facility is being financed by the Tees Valley Local Skills Improvement Fund, which supports the implementation of the Local Skills Improvement Plan, led by the North East Chamber of Commerce and funded through the Department of Education.

The aim is to create realistic environments so students can familiarise themselves with the workplace as the college helps the country meet a huge shortfall of staff in the sector.

The Northern Echo: Darlington College healthcare lecturer Sarah Lloyd with one of the new patient communication simulatorsDarlington College healthcare lecturer Sarah Lloyd with one of the new patient communication simulators (Image: DARLINGTON COLLEGE)

The facility will feature a true-to-life ward, surgery and nursing home complete with beds, screens, sinks, medical flooring and open teaching space.

Curriculum manager for health, childcare, public services and science Mick O’Reilly said: ‘We are very excited. The vastly improved sense of realism is going to be so much better for the students and the local health and social care sector will benefit enormously as a result.”

Expected to open in mid-June, students will be able to perform a variety of procedures on the mannequins which are being provided by Simulaids, who won the supply tender.

These include taking blood pressure and blood and performing injections, as well as dealing with sores.

Students will be able to perfect handling techniques and be instructed in using a hoist and coping with obese patients; an issue which is becoming much more common in the UK.

The mannequins feature speech recognition with artificial intelligence voice responses, scenario-driven and instructor-controlled functions, and physiology with pharmaceutical treatment simulations and ECGs.

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Equipment will be available to students studying T-levels in healthcare and employers for bespoke training.

The mannequins, which can be either gender, young, middle-aged or geriatric, are designed to build critical thinking and decision-making in students, help them perform physical assessments of patients, evaluate vitals and waveforms, practise procedures such as IV administration, catheterisation and airway management.

Students will be able to assess advanced life support performance with CPR metrics as well as live stream and/or record patient perspectives during simulated events.

Darlington College healthcare lecturer Sarah Lloyd said: “The Simulaids come with five settings ranging from a headache to heart problems. But they also can create other conditions to meet students’ needs.

“Students will be able to ask them questions, take their pulse, even shock them with a defibrillator, and get the same response as they would with a real person.”