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Age simulation suit helps nursing staff ‘empathise’

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Community nursing staff from across Lincolnshire will soon be able to gain a better understanding of the physical challenges of old age by using an age simulation suit.

The Gerontologic Test suit (GERT), which has different elements that can be worn from head to toe, will be used to enhance training at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust.

“I always like to try and use experiential learning in teaching sessions”

Donna Phillips

Each part is designed to make the wearer feel the physical effects often associated with old age, such as joint stiffness, loss of strength and reduced grip, coordination and head mobility.

It can also change the opacity of the eye lens, narrow the visual field and simulate high-frequency hearing loss.

The suit, which cost around £2,000, was bought with donations from the trust’s Charitable Funds charity, which supports innovative projects that would not be funded by the NHS.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust

Age simulation suit helps nursing staff ‘empathise’

Brenda Farr

Donna Phillips, sister and clinical nurse lead on Scotter Ward at John Coupland Hospital in Gainsborough, was behind efforts to purchase the suit.

“This suit is going to be a valuable addition to the resources available to us for training and in helping our colleagues to empathise with some of the conditions which commonly affect our patients,” she said.

“I had seen a suit similar to this being used in a hospital on social media while I was working in my previous role as clinical nurse educator,” she said. “When Charitable Funds became available, I started to explore whether we could use something similar here.

“I always like to try and use experiential learning in teaching sessions, as it makes it much more meaningful to those taking part,” she said.

She added: “I am particularly looking forward to being able to use the tremor simulator as part of our Parkinson’s Disease awareness sessions.”

The GERT suit will complement an empathy suit already in use at the trust for moving and handling training for bariatric patients.

Outpatients sister Brenda Farr, who was among those to test the suit, said: “This will be fantastic for our staff. It gives you a greater understanding of what our patients experience.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I've often thought such things would be of benefit, but as someone who has unseen difficulties, some of this would be a nightmare because it would compound pre-existing problems. This means one has to then explain certain things to people that would ordinarily be part of ones private life. For example, being sensitive to fluorescent-lighting is something you have to cope with. But if someone decided it would be good to wear goggles so as to see what it's like to be sensitive to light following a stroke, then this would be a awful. You don't always get to establish why this would be inappropriate. Sometimes you are within a situation and have to explain there and then, regardless of whether you are someone who likes the limelight or not. I've found smaller teams more rewarding than mainstream ward-work. I suppose people gravitate towards certain work for a variety of reasons - care of self, care of team being an important factor. One does not always follow clinical interests because personal survival is just as valid.

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