Simulated Participants: Taking Simulation Seriously

This is a guest post from Avkin, written by Amy Cowperthwait, Founder and CEO. A version of this was originally posted at SimTalk Blog. Avkin offers the latest in wearable technology, and they are presenting at the August 4 SimPOW meeting. Hope to see you there!

The foundation of healthcare simulation is patient safety. In the not-so-distant past, students learned primarily from lectures and textbooks, with a smattering of skills practice before being ushered into the clinical setting and assigned a real, live patient to apply what they had learned. By introducing hands-on training in the safety of a simulation lab, schools reduce student anxiety, enhance their didactic learning, and work to protect vulnerable patients.

Once I began introducing simulation experiences as the Simulation Resource Center Coordinator of University of Delaware, I began to see the converse of student anxiety in the sim lab — student apathy.

I vividly recall a student learning basic life support, a life-saving technique. The team worked quickly to save the “patient” but not quickly enough. I informed the team over the intercom that the patient had died. The student who had been performing CPR slapped her hands down on the chest of the manikin and shouted, “You’re dead!”

As a healthcare professional, mother, daughter, and wife, I imagined what I’d do if this manikin was actually was someone I cared for. I certainly wouldn’t be pleased by the callousness of the student.

One of the most crucial reminders for students is to pretend that the manikin, model, or trainer is a real person. They should imagine it is a family member or loved one. They should care for this device like they would a real human being.

I don’t blame students who are unable to suspend disbelief. It’s impossible to empathize with foam and plastic. That’s why I developed Healthcare Theatre at the University of Delaware and advocate the use of simulated participants (either patients or family members) wherever I go.

Taking Simulation Seriously

  • Future health professionals acting as patients begin to see things through the eyes of the patient and develop empathy. Having a procedure done, especially one as invasive as suctioning or replacing a tracheostomy, is frightening. Allowing students to witness patient’s vantage is incredibly useful.
  • No current technology can match the realism of a human patient. As professionals, students will regularly encounter resistance from patients. It’s best they begin to learn this while under the guidance of a trained educator.
  • Students are more likely to be enthused and engaged when interacting with simulated participants. Performing procedures on real humans who can respond appropriately to care and provide patient-centered feedback helps the student understand patients’ perspective and gain confidence for future interactions.

However, what I discovered early on is the benefit of simulated participants is limited with regard to the medical complexity of the scenario.

One way to take advantage of the benefits of both the manikin technology and interaction of the simulated participants is the Avkin system. You can learn more here.

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