World-leading ‘life-like’ surgical training programme expands in NZ

A world-leading ‘life-like’ surgical training programme, created by researchers at the University of Auckland, has been so successful it will be expanded across all district health boards (DHBs) this year.

The NetworkZ™ programme, which uses life-like, computerised simulators integrated with surgical models that breathe, bleed, blink and talk in real operating theatres, is designed to improve communication and teamwork in pressure situations, ultimately leading to safer surgery, shorter hospital stays and better patient outcomes. Safer surgery also reduces ACC costs – a saving for taxpayers.

The NetworkZ™ team say evidence to support teamwork training for healthcare teams is strong, but team training has not been systematically implemented at a national level before.

Some 463 nurses, doctors, anaesthetists and anaesthetic technicians (28 percent of staff) in the first cohort of five DHBs have already been trained on the programme, which was launched in March 2015. Training for a further five DHBs in the second cohort started in March 2018 and 149 staff (14 percent of the total) have been trained.  

A recent survey of participants showed the training was improving teamwork and people said that, following the training, they were happier to speak up or raise a concern, explains project lead and specialist anaesthetist, Professor Jennifer Weller.

Results have been so compelling that ACC announced today it will be funding the project for a further two and a half years. This will allow the University of Auckland team to implement and embed the training into the remaining ten DHBs around New Zealand.

“We’re also seeing the DHBs using the programme more widely, moving out of the operating rooms in to the Emergency Department, ICU and, in fact, it can be adapted for any acute care setting (in or out of hospitals),” says Professor Weller.

This expansion into other areas of the hospital is part of the reason the programme, which has previously been known as Multidisciplinary Operating Room Simulation (MORSim), has recently changed its name to NetworkZ™.

“The other reason for the name change is we’re getting international interest and the capital ‘N’ and ‘Z’ is our way of identifying where the programme is based,” says programme manager, Kaylene Henderson.

At the end of the five-year project in 2020, the NetworkZ™ team will conduct a full assessment of the programme and publish its results.