McGill’s faculty of medicine is using a fake apartment to teach students real home care skills.

The simulation apartment, part of the faculty’s Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning, is decked out with everything you’d see in a real home – kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and everything that you’d normally find in them. The patients, however, are not real – they’re actors, hired to pretend to have various ailments the future healthcare providers might find once they’re working.

“Much more health care is moving into the home,” said Rajesh Aggarwal, director of the centre. “There’s a concept called hospital at home, so patients can manage their own care, or clinicians can look after patients in their home.”

Students watch their colleagues go through the simulations, which are followed by a debrief on what they got right and wrong.

Thus far, students who have done simulations said they’re finding it helpful.

“We learn through doing so that when we go into our field work placement we feel more comfortable,” said occupational therapy student Jessica Conti.   

Fellow occupational therapy student Megan Cheung said the simulations are teaching her the value of empathy when dealing with clients.

“It reminds you to remain client centered, to listen to what they have to say, to hear their stories,” she said. “(It teaches) how to come in there and help them in the best way possible in the life they’re living.”

While the space is currently reserved for medical health professional, there are plans to eventually allow real patients to use it, too.

“Let’s take a patient who has just gotten a new diagnosis of kidney failure and now they need to start dialisys,” said Aggarwal. “How do they do that? We’ll let them experience what it’s going to be like.”

There are also plans to begin working with Caregiver Crosswalk, an organization that teaches people how to help their loved ones with Alzheimer ’s disease.

Caregiver Crosswalk founder Claire Webster said the facility could provide invaluable lessons to those struggling with diagnosed relatives.

“They would come here and be given an Alzheimer’s 101 course to understand what the disease is, how it would progress and how they need to prepare themselves,” she said. “Then they would go into the simulation apartment and we would teach them how to keep their loved ones safe.”