The School of Health & Social Services at Whitireia has opened a new interactive lab for students as it continues to build on its impressive suite of cutting-edge facilities – and more is planned.
The new facility, which opened a few weeks ago, has opened up further space for paramedic and health students to put to practice essential skills they need in emergency situations by using real life simulation. 

“Think mannequins that can talk back, have a pulse, blood pressure, and a one-way mirror so tutors can manipulate the mannequins testing students’ responses as if in a real-life medical crisis,” says Carmel Haggerty, Head of Whitireia and WelTec School of Health and Social Services.

“And hot off the heels of this, we are building a bedroom, kitchenette, a bathroom, and a replica ambulance as part of the learning facilities,” says Ms Haggerty.

Second year Bachelor of Health Science paramedic student Eveline Moala says: “Often when people have a medical episode it is in an awkward place like a toilet or a small bedroom, so it is going to be very exciting to practice working in those spaces.”

Whitireia also has a cutting-edge range of virtual reality training equipment for its nursing students.

An estimated 600 students at Whitireia and WelTec will use these facilities each semester from paramedics, nursing and mental health programmes. Using this technology, Whitireia is aiming to be completely textbook and paper free.

“Early on at Whitireia we realised that interactive and simulation technology was essential for producing health and medical students who are work, and emergency, ready,” says Ms Haggerty. “So in 2011 we were the first in the tertiary nursing sector to hire a specialist Clinical Lab Manager, Phil Hawes.” 

“Most tertiary institutes in New Zealand use some simulation in their training, but at Whitireia it is core and is integrated through all levels of our nursing and paramedic courses,” says Phil. 

“We want our students to have practiced multiple times in a situation which mimics real life so that by the time they are on the road in ambulances for their first trial run, we have minimised room for error as much as possible. We need them to be work-ready, and importantly, emergency ready,” explains Phil.

“Even simple procedures like finding a vein, taking blood and resuscitation must be practised. Our mannequins can talk back to the students giving them feedback, like: ‘the needle is not inserted correctly’, or ‘more pressure must be applied’.

‘’The virtual reality games also put students through various problem-solving exercises so that they learn to think on the spot and respond almost immediately in the right way to different scenarios. 

“It makes learning fun for the students, they can compete with each other, communicate with each other on the game, there are also links to their online textbooks so if they do something wrong they can refer back and read up why and what to do next time, tutors are also able to login and check the students’ progress,” explains Philip.

“One of the most common failures in the health field is burn-out, but if we can help our students internalise how to respond in certain crises, they are less likely to be in a situation where they feel out of control, and possibly make mistakes – which is what brings the onset of stress,” says Carmel Haggerty, Head of Whitireia and WelTec School of Health and Social Services.

“These interactive facilities will make it safer for patients as the students head out into the field – but just as importantly, it will be safer for them too,” says Ms Haggerty.

Whitireia is one of only two tertiary education providers in New Zealand who offer a Bachelor of Health Science (BHSc) degree in paramedicine.  

“Whitireia’s paramedic degree is unique in Australasia as we have a true education-industry partnership with Wellington Free Ambulance,” says Ms Haggerty. “The partnership began 17 years ago with just fourteen students and has grown to 200+ enrolled this year.”

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