With healthcare providers routinely facing challenges that demand efficient and skillful responses, providing experiential, hands-on training is imperative to ensure that they are properly prepared. A strategy for achieving this purpose—that organizations are increasingly looking at in recent times—is the use of simulation training. Adopting simulation in educational modules helps staff better handle various medical scenarios and epidemic challenges, while maintaining patient safety and quality of care delivery.
Simulation for Staff Training
A direct application of simulation training is to educate staff in regular medical procedures like central line insertions or managing functions in the ED or NICU. However, its applications are far more reaching, with simulation being an effective tool for promoting communication and teamwork across various teams involved in patient treatment. For instance, simulation training at Massachusetts General Hospital is aimed at encouraging a culture of speaking up at the facility. Using multidisciplinary, interprofessional simulation courses, this organization is setting the stage for establishing a hospitalwide culture of non-hierarchical communication. This is proving to be essential for encouraging staff to speak up and talk about certain things they noticed and maybe would have done differently during a surgery simulation, for example. This communicative cohesion ensures a higher level of patient safety.
Taking simulation a step further, organizations like Banner Health are incorporating virtual reality (VR) simulation education into their training protocols. Staff wear a VR headset that projects the video of a surgical procedure from the surgeon’s perspective to learn the steps of the operation. The positive response reported by their staff suggests the potential of such innovative training techniques in shaping more accurate actions during regular and emergent medical operations.
Simulation for Patient Education
Along with its seemingly traditional use for hospital staff, simulation training has also been found to be an application for educating patients. This nontraditional way of patient education was recently explored by Intermountain Healthcare’s simulation center. In a pilot program for its heart failure patient education, Intermountain had patients simulate their self-care in a home-like environment while being watched by trained caregivers. They were asked to track their blood pressure and weight and demonstrate how to act on worrisome symptoms. The positive reception received from their patients opens up new avenues for simulation training within the organization for the management of other chronic conditions such as COPD, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
Potential Issues, Solutions, and Benefits
As with incorporating any new technology, some misunderstandings do plague the use of simulation—particularly in reference to its cost investments and the associated level of benefits. However, as mentioned in this recently published Institute for Healthcare Improvement article, healthcare simulation helps organizations establish better culture while being cost effective, which is probably the reason for its increasing popularity in the healthcare community. This trend can be evidenced by the rising number of hospital-based simulation centers in the U.S. With its wide range of possibilities—for both staff and patients—simulation offers a safe and risk-free way of delivering education, indicating an increased application in the coming years. Either by leveraging simulation training or establishing hospital-based simulation centers, organizations should embrace this strategy to drive better education, which ultimately leads to a higher level of patient safety and improved outcomes for organizations as a whole.
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