There has been an excessive need for ventilators during this Covid-19 pandemic. Xarpie Labs suggests the use of a ventilator simulator to train recently induced students and freshers who need to be immediately introduced to the field and who won’t have the privilege of shadowing and working with experienced pulmonologists, physicians and nurses.

What is a ventilator?

A ventilator is a mechanical ventilation system that transfers breathable air into and out of the lungs to deliver the supply of air to a patient who is physically unable to breathe or breathes insufficiently. Simply put, when infection or disease causes the lungs to collapse, a ventilator takes over the body’s breathing cycle. This gives the patient time to fight off and recuperate from the infection. Different forms of medical ventilation can be used.

How do ventilators work?   Ventilator simulator
Image credits: BBC and Hamilton Medical

When is ventilation used?

Ventilators are used on people under anesthesia eg.who are undergoing surgery. Also for people afflicted with major, acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia, viral infections such as Covid-19 and seasonal influenza. Ventilation is also used when nerves and muscles are damaged by medical conditions such as a stroke, upper spinal cord injuries, and even damage caused by diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), myasthenia gravis, among others.

In a recent study published in The Lancet, experts have suggested that the demand for ventilators is at the peak due to the coronavirus outbreak in the USA. According to the report, about 1,15,001 (ranging between 1,01,006–1,31,770) invasive ventilators and 89,788 (ranging between 78,861–1,02,880) non-invasive ventilators would be needed, on an average during the peak of COVID-19 outbreak. The study further elaborates that 69,660 out of 98,105 invasive ventilators in the USA were already deployed for non-coronavirus patients, before the spread of the pandemic. This implies that only 28,445 invasive ventilators would be available for coronavirus patients. Not to forget the fact that critical coronavirus patients need to be on the ventilator for almost double the duration of most other treatments.

Mechanical ventilation for critically ill patients is a life-saving procedure. As ventilators become increasingly sophisticated, the work of clinicians in charge of their operation does not necessarily become easier. A recent mechanical ventilation textbook lists 298 mode names on 36 ventilators in the US alone.

In the US, respiratory therapists serve as mechanical ventilation experts. However, during their care span, numerous other clinicians interact with a patient and therefore need to be trained in ventilation. Here is a list of healthcare disciplines within an organization that would benefit from ventilation training:

  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Emergency Medicine Physicians
  • Nurses (ICU, ER)
  • Physiotherapists

Due to the general number of physicians who work with a patient over the duration of their treatment, ventilation training needs to address a wide variety of situations involving airway control, non-invasive breathing, artificial breathing activation, and how to correctly ventilate apneic or spontaneously breathing patients in various medical states and changing health conditions. Ventilation training and instruction are usually imparted through textbooks and presentations in a classroom. Primitive simulation is somewhat implemented but found to be less effective when using a typical test lung with minimal flexibility and realism. Ventilator simulator using advanced simulation, and immersive technology like virtual reality has the ability to be the most successful course of practice, with the right tools, to standardize and improve ventilation training, evidently a critical and life-saving procedure.

Benefits of ventilator training using ventilator simulator

What is Virtual Reality or VR?

Virtual reality tools come handy for enhancing instruction and learning experiences through the implementation of simulation modules. Virtual reality (VR) can be defined as a set of techniques and systems required for human beings to enter computer-generated synthetic worlds. VR techniques are based on real-time interaction with an artificial immersive world using behavioral interfaces that enable both physical and emotional perceptions of multiple sensations (visual, auditory, and haptic stimulation and perception).

What can virtual healthcare training do?

Mechanical ventilation is a complex skill that often requires a combination of learning courses.  With the high demand of ventilator management in the acute Corona Virus setting, healthcare professionals may be tasked with managing these complex situations with minimal understanding of mechanical ventilation or ventilators. Virtual reality and Augmented reality can be utilized to combine video, graphic and textual content to provide medical professionals with essential knowledge via online sessions that take them through the process of setting a patient upon a ventilator system and dealing with typical complications that can arise as they are being ventilated under sedation. The potential of VR and simulators for medical education is astounding. Virtual healthcare training is soon to be broadly accepted into medical education. Very recently a project related to ventilator training involving digital reality tools has been developed with Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where it is being rolled out for national and international deployment.

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Virtual healthcare training will help hospitals to retain knowledge while boosting their capacity at a time when resources are stretched by high patient numbers coupled with the absence of clinical staff due to self-isolation – in pandemic situations like COVID-19. 

Ventilator Simulator a need of the hour

Due to the pandemic and the high number of patients, hospitals all over the world are considering welcoming so many retired doctors and nurses back to frontline medicine, as well as redeploying clinicians to ICU from other disciplines – they may need to learn or refresh required ventilation skills as quickly as possible. A ventilator simulator can help to bring them up to date in a very short span of time. Virtual healthcare training and ventilator simulators provide real-time data, providing educators the information they need to adjust instruction, and they can be customized further to meet the unique needs of each learner.

Overcoming the gaps in healthcare training

Over the years, many ethical, financial, and practical weaknesses have been identified in the traditional method of ventilator training in the medical field. Virtual healthcare training and simulation have been showing tremendous promise in overcoming most of the deficiencies associated with such training and involving such technologies will result in optimal benefits for the industry. 

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