North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has deployed wearables from RealWear to give students a bird’s eye view of orthopaedic surgical procedures to promote safer theatre training environments and accelerate students’ learning.

The RealWear head-mounted tablets and software have also significantly increased the number of students who can safely experience orthopaedic operating room procedures in real-time from the surgeon’s point of view. North Tees and Hartlepool now gives more students a live operating room learning experience in a single day than it could previously manage in an entire year, which is helping to address shortages of theatre professionals.

The solution involves a surgeon wearing the device while performing a live surgery. Students are able to observe from a separate room, asking questions as they ‘see’ what is happening in real-time through the surgeon’s eyes.

Jean Angus, head of nursing education at North Tees and Hartlepool, said: “Entering a theatre can be intimidating for students, but this technology removes that barrier.

“Practice experience in theatre is not available to all students, but by using the RealWear device it has been possible to accommodate students from 11 disciplines and six universities.

“This allows them to interact with the surgeon and view the whole theatre experience. This, in turn, may inspire students to think about the career progression opportunities it presents. The experience can play a role in addressing the significant shortage of theatre professionals nationally.”

Earlier this summer, the NHS England Workforce Plan was announced, to address chronic skills shortages. North Tees and Hartlepool was keen to find a solution that would enable it to expand the number of student practice placements it could offer, in a bid to tackle the skills shortages.

Traditionally, only a small number of students could be accommodated due to space and safety restrictions, which would have meant only partial or obstructed views of the medical procedure underway. With visual observation so key for student’s learning, this would have hampered the learning process and knowledge transfer.

Microphones allow interractive lesson

The trust is using the RealWear Navigator 500 running Microsoft Teams. The adjustable point-of-view camera has video stabilisation and precision zoom features. Plus the built-in microphones and speakers mean that students can ask questions and the surgeon is able to respond during the operation. The equipment also supports interactivity, with students being able to request a closer view of specific aspects.

Dr Chris Parkinson, co-founder and CEO at RealWear, said: “Simplicity, user-friendliness and the ability to provide a bird’s-eye view of surgical procedures are the three aspects that are most important to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust since its deployment.

“Our hands-free solutions are a gamechanger for healthcare, allowing a large audience of students to gather in one room and remotely observe medical procedures with zero obstructions. This dramatically accelerates the learning process for all in real time.”

Going forward, the trust hopes that further deployment of the technology will enable wearables to be used to observe the complete patient journey – from outpatient consultations to post-operative recovery – helping to ensure consistent treatment throughout.