Laerdal Medical

    How can simulation-based training accelerate student learning?

    Medicine traditionally relies on a "see one, do one" approach to learning and experience. In this context, didactic learning tends to be limited to the process of imparting knowledge.

    Simulation-based learning picks up where didactic leaves off. Simulation makes didactic knowledge come alive in a setting designed to mimic real clinic encounters and life-like experiences where clinicians can refine their individual and team skills well before ever touching a real patient.

    Here are three ways the effective use of medical simulation can fast-track student learning:

    1. Simulation increases engagement.

    Experts agree that an instructor's intent should be to facilitate their desire to learn, and challenge learners to fill in gaps where their experience falls short. The ultimate goal? To turn learners into self-sufficient problem solvers.1 Simulation is ideal for this.

    As an educational approach, simulation offers a framework that is both immersive and experiential. Learners who train using simulation experience a higher level of engagement and show greater personal involvement in their training versus those who only experience didactic learning.

    "Simulation is unique in that it fits all types of learning styles, so it becomes this multi-modal learning environment. Students take far more away from that than eight hours in a classroom.

     — Amar Patel of WakeMed Health & Hospitals

    A growing body of evidence shows that clinical skills acquired via simulation transfer directly to improved patient care and better outcomes. When paired with deliberate practice, simulation-based education is found to be superior to traditional clinical education for a wide range of skills acquisition.2

    One such study indicates that simulation promotes engagement in several ways:

    • Flow: Students were absorbed in the task at hand.
    • Interest: Students demonstrated interest as evidenced by enjoyment, active discussion, and humor.
    • Relevance: Simulations were relevant, in terms of situational clinical practice, exam preparation, and obtaining feedback on clinical decisions.3

    2. Simulation maximizes retention.

    Learners and providers who use simulation have higher retention rates versus exclusively didactic forms of learning. "Simulation helps students build mental models, which is so important in healthcare," according to Jennifer McCarthy, EMT-P, an associate professor at Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ. "Faculty interact with them to build an effective model, so when students are under stress they can draw on that experience."

    "Having the opportunity to go through an experience allows people to have that ah-ha moment when they begin to see things differently." — Dr. Sharon Giswold-Theodorson, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine


    Research confirms the importance of hands-on practice for skills retention.4 In a 2010 study, 100 percent of graduate nurses said that simulation facilitated learning through experience without risk to the patient, and gave them confidence in emergency situations.5

    In simulation-based team training for obstetric clinicians, 30 percent of participants said their team's overall performance showed significant improvement. Further, 90 percent agreed that their response to critical events improved.6

    A longitudinal study of internal medicine residents found that Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) skills acquired via a simulation-based education program did not decay significantly over a 14-month period. These findings are in sharp contrast with baseline data indicating that graduating residents without simulator training showed 17 percent poorer performance on average, despite three years of patient care and completion of two ACLS courses.7

    3. Simulation ensures learning is transferred to the job

    Learners and providers who use simulation, especially in situ, are associated with a higher rate of skill application at the bedside.

    Evidence shows that clinical skills acquired in medical simulation laboratory settings transfer directly to improved patient care practices and better patient outcomes. For example, simulation was found to be superior to traditional clinical education for acquisition of a wide range of medical skills, including: advanced cardiac life support, laparoscopic surgery, cardiac auscultation, hemodialysis catheter insertion, thoracentesis, and central venous catheter insertion.8

    A recent study found that in situ simulation as an interdisciplinary team training methodology reduced perinatal morbidity. The findings indicated that a process shift occurred in the hospital being trained with in situ simulation, resulting in an improvement of 37 percent in perinatal morbidity.9

    Dr. Robert Anderson, assistant professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, sees simulation as having a tremendous impact on learning outcomes. "You can challenge the way students look at things and make mistakes in essentially a consequence-free environment."10


    "Does simulation work? You bet it works," says Dr. Thomas Talbot, medical director, USC Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. "It's sort of a play version of a real-life situation whee someone could have a good outcome or a poor outcome. We let users have that experience in a safe environment so they're free to make mistakes and learn from them."

    Factors such as competition for clinical sites, limited opportunities for high-quality clinical experiences, a renewed focus on patient safety, and evolving reimbursement strategies have combined to recast medical simulation from "nice to have" to a must-have for effective medical education and training. If you're not using simulation today, perhaps it's time to explore how simulation can add to your training efforts.

    See the original Laerdal article for references.

    Pocket Nurse is an authorized Laerdal distributor.