To give hospital staff a greater understanding of the physical challenges of their older patients John Coupland Hospital in Gainsborough has purchased a suit which simulates the effects of old age.
And the hospital invited Standard Reporter, Shelley Marriott, along to try out the 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 (LCHS).
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 even change the opacity of the eye lens, narrow the visual field and simulate high-frequency hearing loss.
I couldn’t believe how difficult even the most simplest of movements were. Things I take for granted every single day, such as just getting in and out of a chair, was made so much more difficult.
Every movement was exhausting as all your limbs were so heavy. I had a go at getting out of bed from lying down and I couldn’t lift my legs on their own, I had to use my hands.
What hit me the most was the fact that I was able to take the suit off after just a few minutes when people feel like that for every minute of every day.
I think this equipment will be great for the hospital staff as they will be able to empathise with their patients. Rather than just imagining how they must be feeling they will be able to have first hand experience.
The GERT cost approximately £2,000 and has been bought using donations from LCHS’s Charitable Funds, a registered charity which supports innovative projects to enhance services and facilities that would not be funded by the NHS.
Ward Sister Donna Phillips, Clinical Nurse Lead on Scotter Ward at John Coupland Hospital, Gainsborough, said: “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.
“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 a Clinical Nurse Educator.
“When Charitable Funds became available I started to explore whether we could use something similar here at Lincolnshire Community Health Services. I always like to try and use experiential learning in teaching sessions as it makes it much more meaningful to those taking part.
“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 LCHS in moving and handling training for bariatric patients.
I also tried out the empathy suit and similar to the GERT, simple movements were so exhausting, again I tried getting in and out of bed and I had to use so much energy.
It’s heartbreaking that people have to cope with these battles every single day.
The final piece of equipment I got to try were the tremor simulation gloves which simulate the effects of Parkinsons Disease. I had a go at holding a pen and then writing my name on a piece of paper. This was incredibly difficult as you cannot control the tremors. It must be so frustrating to not be able to do simple tasks.
Outpatients Sister Brenda Farr was also among those to have tested the GERT suit.
She said: “This will be fantastic for our staff. It gives you a greater understanding of what our patients experience. I’ve really enjoyed being able to take part in testing the suit.”