HMAS Penguin’s Medical Simulation Centre has continued to build medical capability under new leadership as Lieutenant Steven Grosser completed a productive three years as Simulation Coordinator.
The centre opened in 2013 as part of the Royal Australian Navy Medical School on the shores of Sydney Harbour and has provided a wide range of learning experiences for trainees.
Lieutenant Grosser of Fleet Health used experiences drawn from his own and other members’ deployments to create varied clinical scenarios and complex medical situations.
Scenarios were then put into practice with the assistance of Simulator Instructor Petty Officer Medic – Submarine Errol Campbell.
Lieutenant Grosser said about 500 students went through the school each year, conducting basic first-aid on the Ship’s Medical Emergency Team course, through to high-level simulation with medical teams of doctors, nurses, and medics.
“The simulation spaces can be modified to replicate a sick bay, or be expanded to imitate the environment of a Landing Helicopter Dock or other ship, and train medical staff in a mass casualty situation.
“The lower simulation area has three rooms with patient mannequins in each allowing the simulation of basic and advanced life support skills and assessment, while the main room can be transformed to look like a ship’s compartment with multiple casualties,” he said.
Lieutenant Grosser, who is an operating theatre nurse, said the best medical training was performed if the instructor was out of the room.
“The simulation rooms have observation areas with darkened windows for the instructors and other class members and the action is viewable on closed-circuit televisions and recorded for teaching analysis.
“We stopped allowing the trainees to talk to instructors because they won’t be there in a real-life situation.
“They must get the signs and symptoms from the patient.
“If there’s a disconnection, the instructor can go in and suggest what may have been missed,” he said.
The former Balmoral Naval Hospital, which closed in 2006, has also been transformed and is known as the Upper Simulation Centre.
A replica MRH90 Taipan was placed near the entrance, while the inside resembles a Landing Helicopter Dock ship, complete with medical facilities for resuscitation, intensive care, operating theatres, X-rays, and pathology.
Lieutenant Grosser said the facility could be transformed to replicate different ship classes comprised of several compartments to rehearse events with multiple casualties.
“The helicopter lets us simulate aircraft medical evacuations by either loading patients on to the aircraft as a member of the Ship’s Medical Emergency Team, or having clinical doctors and nurses transfer casualties to an operating theatre.
“Inside the building we are in the process of using short-throw laser projectors to vary the simulation environment and replicate any deployed ship, aircraft, or outside scenario.
“The application of mock injuries combined with sound and lighting effects are all used to help create a realistic atmosphere,” he said.
Lieutenant Grosser said the stimulus provided during the medical training gave the students exposure to stressful situations.
“It gives them muscle memory of their clinical skills and allows them to perform under pressure.
“When the time comes for them to perform for real it won’t be an issue because they have trained well.
“While the facilities and equipment at the simulation centre are world-class, the power of this place is actually the team of dedicated instructors combined with students who want to learn,” he said.
Lieutenant Grosser said another system intended for use was where a live patient would wear a skin suit capable of sustaining scalpel incisions for trainees to cut into.
“The fidelity of the realism this will provide them while also looking into the patient’s eyes will be a fantastic teaching aid.
“Other new training aids include mobile simulation equipment and software with Wi-Fi and the ability to enable and record training on the move,” he said.
Bluetooth stethoscopes which can be used on a mannequin or live patient will also be included in the package.
Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin said the simulation facility was world class and directly contributed to Navy and ADF capability.
"Lieutenant Grosser should be congratulated for his professionalism, resourcefulness and dedication during his time as the Simulation Coordinator," he said.
Lieutenant Grosser will hand over to Lieutenant Megan Hoare of Joint Health Command at the end of the year.