The University of Cumbria in Lancaster has officially opened its new high-tech ultrasound simulator laboratory, one of the largest installation of its kind in the world.
The laboratory is equipped with revolutionary ultrasound simulators which will enable students to gain basic skills by experiencing lifelike, hands-on training before entering the busy clinical environment of sonography.
With a UK-wide shortage of sonographers being identified by the government*, this half million pound project was funded jointly by the university and a grant from Health Education North West.
The University of Cumbria has responded to the sonography workforce gap by expanding its portfolio of ultrasound courses to meet the needs of an increasingly pressured health care system. This advanced virtual-reality technology has facilitated the provision of a new accelerated route to a medical ultrasound postgraduate degree, aimed at students from non-clinical health and sciences backgrounds.
Emma Timperley (24), from Lancaster is one of this first cohort of postgraduate sonography students at the university. She says:
“My first degree was in biomedical sciences, but this postgraduate course will allow me to become a trained sonographer in two years. I had the opportunity to use this new technology for a few weeks before going out on my first placement and it’s been invaluable.
It not only gives you a real feel for the orientation of the ultrasound, but also provides all the basic information about anatomy that you need at this stage.”
Professional lead for medical sciences at the university, Charles Sloane, says:
“Students at the University of Cumbria are very fortunate to have access to this world-leading ultrasound skills development facility.
“It will enable us to help address the shortage of sonographers that currently exists and ensure patients can continue to access the services they need to get a quick diagnosis of potentially life threating conditions, such as cancer.”
ScanTrainer, created by MedaPhor, is a specialist ultrasound skills training simulator made using ‘real feel’ technology which gives students a chance to learn what it feels like to carry out a real-life scan, preparing them for what they’ll experience in a clinical environment. In addition, its ‘virtual tutor’ technology means students are in control of their own learning, both in and out of class time.
Iain Dunbar, International Sales Manager at MedaPhor, comments:
“The new skills lab signals that the ultrasound education industry in the UK, and across the world, is finally responding to the demand for sonography skills as ultrasound grows in popularity as a diagnostic modality. The university’s approach is truly pioneering and we are delighted to be at the forefront alongside them.”
The new ‘Ultrasound Skills Hub’ at the university’s Lancaster campus was officially opened on 17 March by university vice chancellor Professor Peter Strike. An audience of invited guests from the healthcare professions was also given a demonstration of the new scanning equipment by postgraduate students.
*Sonographers are listed on the UK Government’s Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List, November 2015. For more information about the MSc Medical Ultrasound course, please visit the university website. For further details about the ScanTrainer equipment, visit the Medaphor website here.