“Simulation is a technique – not a technology – to replace or amplify real experiences with guided experiences that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive manner.” – David M. Gaba, Stanford University
To build a safer health system, many health science universities use simulation to provide medical, nursing and physician assistant students with lots of guided practice under the mentoring of seasoned practitioners
The general definition of simulation per Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary is “The imitative representation of the functioning of one system or process by means of the functioning of another; examination of a problem often not subject to direct experimentationby means of a simulating device.” (emphasis added)
In medicine, we use simulation so that novice medical students practice on something, not on someone. In the initial stages of their career they cannot practice on an actual live human, so we use simulation devices to imitate the human body.
Simulation employs a variety of technologies. We use task trainer devices that simulate a part of the body. We use computerized mannequins that simulate the complete human body, including pulses and breath sounds. We use computer programs like Heart Sounds that can simulate just cardiac sounds or EKG waves to test students’ knowledge. We can also simulate complex situations, or “scenarios,” to imitate the interactions between human beings. More precisely, we try to imitate the breakdown of communication between human beings, as this is a frequent cause of medical error. In the near future we could use virtual reality computer technology, similar to that used by the U.S. Military for training of new cadets, to train interdisciplinary teams in emergency communication scenarios.
With such a broad variety of devices and methods there are many aspects to the use of medical simulation as a teaching tool. Our Simulation Faculty Learning Community at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science came up with this beginner’s concept map of simulation.
The diagram above seems to emphasize the technology, but more important is the real-world expertise of the teacher that designs the simulation experience for the student.
The most important outcome from simulation is that it increases the competency of health care professionals, thus providing better and safer care for everyone in our society… because all of us are or will one day be patients!