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Experts at the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Medical Educational Technology Centre (METC) have developed several technological solutions and equipment to help medical students acquire skills remotely during the current national state of emergency. Among them is a prototype for an injection training system that uses artificial blood and an anatomical model of the oesophagus and the trachea that allows for the visualisation of the insertion of a nasogastric tube. This equipment allows students to develop skills regarding hand hygiene and sterilisation procedures, medicine administration, basic skills of working with the digestive system, and urinary bladder catheterisation. 28 different skills can be learned through this approach.

‘Simulations are of vital importance in healthcare. Using simulations, students can apply their knowledge in practice, acquire new skills and improve existing ones, as well as develop and demonstrate their professional competence in a safe and controlled environment. Before the state of emergency was announced, the METC provided RSU students from all healthcare study programmes with the possibility to acquire clinical skills in a simulated environment on a daily basis. Due to the state of emergency, theoretical lectures have been taking place remotely since the middle of March, and it was necessary to find a creative way to offer an alternative to practical lessons. The initiative and the creative approach of METC lecturers, medical engineers, experts in clinical simulation, and laboratory assistants allowed us to create several sets of equipment to ensure that these skills can be acquired remotely,’ says Ieva Šlēziņa, METC Director.

‘Students can receive equipment sets at the METC, while those who are not in Riga or are, for example, in self-isolation can receive them by mail. It is prohibited to use the equipment for medical purposes, as the equipment is intended solely for practising simulated manipulations. After the sets have served their purpose, they must be returned to the RSU METC and placed in special containers in compliance with regulations on the disposal of medical waste,’ explains Jekaterina Zvidriņa, Clinical Simulations Coordinator at the METC. The classes are held online using Zoom. During the online sessions, the lecturer explains the purpose and application of the skill and gives a step-by-step demonstration, while students perform the actions using their equipment. They can afterwards repeat the procedure themselves and improve their skills at home.

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Holding online classes after such a short period of preparation has been a major challenge for the RSU education system and for me personally. Lecturers and students haven’t experienced training like this before. I have enthusiastically and confidently sought a creative approach to ensure a high quality remote learning process. I am pleased with the work that has been carried out so far, and with our results. I believe that we are constantly improving when working remotely with a team of students, supporting and helping each one another to master manipulations at home.

Anastasija Gromova, Acting Assistant at the Department of Clinical Skills and Medical Technologies

Kate Anohina, 3rd year student from the Faculty of Medicine, describes her experience: ‘The equipment is great and the artificial skin provides an excellent alternative. It allows us to practice properly at home and can therefore do it more frequently than only during the specific lesson once a week. From students' perspective, it is also positive that we have the opportunity to study every detail of each piece of equipment so we can learn to distinguish between needles, catheters, and ampoules. The lecturer is eager to explain everything and she makes sure that we understand what we are shown and taught. We have not noticed any disadvantages yet – it is a very well-organised study course!’

Pāvels Ananovs, Kate's groupmate, adds: ‘In view of the state of emergency in the country, I was convinced that we would have to learn all practical skills later, when the situation in the country would change. I was pleasantly surprised that I already received a simulation set for the first practical class that had everything I needed in order to learn the study material. The approach was very creative and it was exciting to work this way. Finally, I had the opportunity to talk about the way remote studies are organised for medical students and show it as well! It is good to know that our university is able to handle such unusual situations quickly and creatively, doing everything they can to ensure that the quality of our studies doesn’t suffer and that students are provided with the necessary study conditions. I wish to thank the university and METC staff very much for planning and making so many sets, and for taking students’ opinions into account!’