Addressing the challenges of ECMO simulation

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Abstract

Introduction/Aim:

The patient’s condition and high-risk nature of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy force clinical services to ensure clinicians are properly trained and always ready to deal effectively with critical situations. Simulation-based education (SBE), from the simplest approaches to the most immersive modalities, helps promote optimum individual and team performance. The risks of SBE are negative learning, inauthenticity in learning and over-reliance on the participants’ suspension of disbelief. This is especially relevant to ECMO SBE as circuit/patient interactions are difficult to fully simulate without confusing circuit alterations.

Methods:

Our efforts concentrate on making ECMO simulation easier and more realistic in order to reduce the current gap there is between SBE and real ECMO patient care. Issues to be overcome include controlling the circuit pressures, system failures, patient issues, blood colour and cost factors. Key to our developments are the hospital-university collaboration and research funding.

Results:

A prototype ECMO simulator has been developed that allows for realistic ECMO SBE. The system emulates the ECMO machine interface with remotely controllable pressure parameters, haemorrhaging, line chattering, air bubble noise and simulated blood colour change.

Conclusion:

The prototype simulator allows the simulation of common ECMO emergencies through innovative solutions that enhance the fidelity of ECMO SBE and reduce the requirement for suspension of disbelief from participants. Future developments will encompass the patient cannulation aspect.

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