Expert interviews: Mark Williams, Medical Gas Trainer

We caught up with our Medical Gas Trainer Mark Williams on what makes Eastwood Park's training stand out from the crowd, as well as the improvements that have been made to our practical medical gas training facilities in recent months. 

Mark works alongside our Medical Gas Portfolio Manager in support of practical training - as well as delivering his own courses - and has had a significant impact on the delivery of Eastwood Park’s medical gas training under the ‘new normal’ COVID-19 has brought about.

How did you get involved with teaching medical gas?

I had worked for a number of years as an Authorised Person (MGPS) in both NHS Trusts and private organisations, with experience of handing over medical gas facilities to estates teams. I found this passing on of knowledge really rewarding, so when I heard Eastwood Park were looking for medical gas trainers I jumped at the chance, having previously attended the centre for a medical gas design course.

Tell me about the facilities on offer at Eastwood Park for medical gas training – what are the improvements you have made recently?

We are proud to have a fully-working, ‘live’ medical gas pipeline system for learners to get hands-on with while they are here training with us. But beyond this, we are always looking at other ways to improve our practical offering and we have added a significant amount of new kit and initiatives to our facility in recent months. These include

  • Live workstations for a range of commonly used terminal outlets including BeaconMedeas gem shield terminal outlets, to enable learners to maintain/replace capsules in-house
  • East SP and Zeus SP terminal outlet conversion kits
  • A range of frequently used terminal outlet rigs for use when training at the customer’s own site
  • Additional pressure switches and test and calibration rigs which allow learners to calibrate pressure switches
  • Replacement surgical air manual manifold, compliant with HTM 02-01
  • Additional brazing stations so small groups can train simultaneously and facilities to allow learners to install pipework and carry out purging and engineering tests on terminal outlets as specified in the HTM, using the correct test equipment
  • New alarm panels from Shire Controls, creating a central alarm facility used in our Authorised and Competent Person training

What are the benefits of this hands-on training in addition to classroom based/theory?

Put simply, I believe that practical training is the best way to learn. You can remember what you have done rather than just what you have been told, which for many people, is a much more conducive way to learn. Practical exercises also increase engagement between the trainer and learner and improve peer-to-peer interaction. This is so important, particularly in the current climate, where the strain put upon healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic means that the value of networking with others from around the community who ‘get it’ too cannot be underestimated.

At Eastwood Park, learners are able to work at their own pace, away from the pressures of the live hospital site, whilst building competency, becoming more familiar with how tools and materials work, feel and function.

What differentiates Eastwood Park’s courses from other training providers (especially now in light of the pandemic)?

While for some, COVID-19 will mean a reduction in the time spent available for practical training, two trainers mean that Eastwood Park is able to split learners into smaller groups within the class for practical exercises, which is not only safer but means all learners have much greater opportunity to get involved and utilise equipment.

In line with the social distancing policies in place around the site, we have created additional workstations for activities such as brazing to allow learners extra room to carry out their practical activities in smaller groups. We are also making PPE available to all learners so that they can continue to get hands-on with the equipment whilst feeling secure in the training environment.

As always, we continue to ensure that our courses remain up to date with the latest and most relevant standards and guidance, and this includes COVID-19 guidance too. For example, the Design note: COVID-19 ward for intubated patients (Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) standard operating procedure) is now covered in the course materials for our Authorised person MGPS (HTM 02) course.

What are the biggest issues your delegates face and how do you help them overcome them? (either because of COVID or otherwise)

You can’t really substitute real life experience for theory learning – this was illustrated to us once again recently with an Authorised Person who was having problems with replacing capsules on an East SP terminal outlet back on his site. In attending training at Eastwood Park and being able to get hands-on with equipment, we were able to walk through the problem and build up the knowledge for him to resolve the issue in-house, without the need to call in a contractor. As a result of this interaction, we have actually installed new East SP and Zeus SP terminal outlets in the classroom, so we can now demonstrate this solution to future learners too.

When it comes to the pandemic, we know the healthcare sector is really struggling with staffing at the moment, whether this is because of increased sickness levels or staff having to shield. Our training caters for all levels and roles that come into contact with medical gases, allowing estates and engineering departments to multi-skill their staff, resulting in greater cover on site.