Back to Top The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa host a “shocking” world first - The Ottawa Hospital


The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa host a “shocking” world first

October 4, 2013 – Clinically depressed patients will benefit from better trained psychiatrists and a safer way to receive electroconvulsive therapy thanks to a new program developed by The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa.

In a world first, psychiatrists are receiving hands-on training to administer electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) using life-like robots that simulate a real-world clinical setting. The immersive environment allows psychiatrists to hone their skills before treating actual patients who suffer from severe and persistent depression.

ECT, formerly known as electroshock therapy, is an effective psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in anesthetized patients in order to achieve therapeutic benefits. ECT is most often recommended for use as a treatment for patients who are severely depressed, suicidal or have bipolar disorder with depression or mania.

Traditionally, psychiatrists have learned to perform ECT through lectures and apprenticeships with experienced ECT practitioners.

This new ECT course is based on lessons learned from a randomized controlled trial conducted at the University of Ottawa Skills and Simulation Centre by a research team led by Dr. Kiran Rabheru. The trial compared traditional training methods to simulation-based training involving the use of mannequins in a clinical setting.

The study concluded that ECT trainees demonstrated a higher level of clinical knowledge, skill and confidence after receiving simulation-based training than they did following lecture-style methods of training. As a result, patients of psychiatrists who received simulation-based ECT training experienced better outcomes and lower risks of complications, such as memory loss.

“The traditional courses offer a good foundation for practitioners learning to use ECT,” said Dr. Rabheru, Course Director and Medical Director, Geriatric Psychiatry & ECT Service, The Ottawa Hospital and Full Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa. “These new training exercises using simulations take learning one step further and improve the confidence and skill level of practitioners, leading to improved safety for our patients.”

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