Innovation for Independence

Development of a spinal simulator to teach manual skills to health care professionals

Publish date:
16/01/2015 - 2:00pm
Last updated:
16/01/2015 - 2:04pm
Jonathan Flynn

I am a PhD student in the 3rd year of my studies, additionally i am a practicing physiotherapist and the overall aim of my project is to develop a spinal simulator to improve understanding of manual therapy. Manual therapy is a series of techniques that are used to palpate, mobilise and manipulate the spine during episodes of back pain. I have worked in this field for many years and i have a large teaching responsibility to pre and post registration doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths. This includes impaired and non impaired individuals. I don't discriminate as i am keen to promote an integrated approach. However the insight i have gained from students, patients and professionals with physical and sensory impairments has been invaluable and has really pushed the idea to where it is today. As part of my PhD journey i have been consulting with stake holders (patients, students, qualified health care practitioners, engineers) to address the public design and usefulness of such a device. The crux of the problem i am trying to solve is this. For a person without impairment its difficult to to effectively perform manual therapy, particularly in their initial qualifying years. For those with impairment it is significantly multiplied. The product i am proposing will reduce this significantly and allow all (regardless of impairment) to use manual therapy.

Insight & Impact

The impact of this technology and product will be measurable in both academic and in patient satisfaction scores. The academic component refers to the musculoskeletal training that students in the above mentioned disciplines receive while studying at their respective universities. It is hoped that the spinal simulator would be integrated into the teaching to allow all students (particularly those with impairments) an alternative method of learning these crucially important psychomotor, affective and cognitive skill sets. I have reviewed the literature and conducted surveys of training establishments and currently the methods used are 'old hat', are the methods that have always been used and are limited for all students. Interestingly this isn't because of resistance, in fact the feedback i have received is that they would welcome a new approach. Secondly it stands to reason that better training and application leads to better patient care and management. Away from that and by far more important to me is that all perspective and current health care professionals with an impairment are given the opportunity to overcome the difficulties around the tasks involved with manual therapy and can apply and implement these patient beneficial treatment approaches in the same way the same trained individual without an impairment would do.