Frailty suit helps hospital training

Staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn are finding out what it is like to walk in the shoes of their frail patients.

The hospital is running training sessions using a frailty suit which simulates how patients walk and communicate to help staff teams improve their knowledge, understanding and empathy.

It is fitted with weighted shoe covers and gloves, all to give the experience of muscle deterioration and how much effort is sometimes required just to go for a little walk. There is also a weighted, opaque visor fitted to the suit with restrictors, again, all to simulate the lack of movement some patients have in their neck as well as the visual impairments patients may have.

The hospital’s chief executive Alice Webster put on the suit in a bid to further understand the work of the department. She commented: “It’s very odd to wear the suit for a long period of time. It’s an amazing piece of equipment designed to help us feel how many of our older patients feel.

“It gets uncomfortable not being able to stand up and stretch and you just get more and more hunched over.

“I hope this suit will be a crucial tool for our staff on treating people with dignity. It certainly makes you stop and think, and reminds you to take a look at the person in front of you and their needs. It’s the message we teach through the caring with kindness programme. Don’t just assume, just because you’ve told someone they’ve understood. It’s all about mental frailty as well as physical frailty.”

Rachel Burridge, Consultant Nurse for Care of the Elderly, has spearheaded the training, sharing her knowledge and experiences across the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System. She has been hosting training sessions with QEH staff who have been able to wear the suit and talk through their experiences.

Leah Edgely, who is the ward manager on West Newton, led by example as the first to try on the suit. Leah said: “The suit is heavy and feels like it’s pulling me forward it’s hurting my back in this position for five minutes, imagine what it feels like all day, every day. I’m hunched over and it’s very difficult to move.”

The frailty suit was donated to the QEH from Health Education England – the suits cost on average £2,000.

Leah was joined by Nursing Degree Apprentice, Tom Edwards who added: “I feel that it is so important that we learn from this experience of what it feels like to be frail. This has made me much more considerate, aware and understanding when it comes to assisting patients with their daily activities.”

You can watch a short view of QEH Chief Executive Alice Webster wearing the suit below