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The Role Of Simulations In Today’s Medical Education Process

Educating the healthcare professionals of tomorrow is a serious responsibility, but whether they’re in medical school or training to be a nurse or paramedic, students can’t practice on real patients. So what is the best way to prepare these trainees? In recent years, the healthcare industry has turned toward simulations to provide students with the most realistic training possible, no matter their specialty.

EMT Mastery

EMTs are among the youngest, least experienced healthcare providers, but they’re also first responders, which means they need to act quickly in stressful situation. To prepare them for anything they may face in the field, then, EMT training programs use several different approaches. For basic life saving techniques such as learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, for example, students typically learn using a mannequin designed for the process. When learning to navigate the ambulance, however, there’s no replacement for the real thing – or there wasn’t until the Simbulance.

The Simbulance or simulated ambulance was developed at Vassar College as part of their on-campus EMT training program. Students go on to serve as campus EMTs, but don’t receive on-ambulance training until their formal clinical rotation, meaning they lacked sufficient opportunities to practice treating patients in small spaces or using onboard equipment. The Simbulance makes it easier for students to master the necessary skills to handle emergencies out in the field and allows them to begin building those skills earlier in their training.

A Focus On Pharmacy

Medication errors are a common cause of injury and even death among hospital patients, which makes training pharmacists of the utmost importance, but in many cases, pharmacy education focuses on lectures and tutorial programs rather than hands-on education. In order to bridge the gap between rote learning and the workplace, a growing number of pharmacy programs are turning to simulation-based education.

Not only do simulation programs help pharmacy students gain the necessary experience to do their jobs safely in the real world, new tools like simulation recording software allows users to film the simulation for later review. Since students usually only have limited access to simulation equipment, video of the tasks is often the best alternative.

Simulations For Safety

Finally, no matter the specialization, all healthcare professionals need to be taught essential patient safety skills, and unlike basic tasks like drawing blood or performing a sonogram, these skills can’t always be taught on model patients or in the classroom. As with the simulated ambulance, students need a realistic setting – and realistic patient scenarios – in which to master these skills, and training programs are stepping up to provide them.

At the University of Miami, students in the medical research program have access to a full Simulation Hospital so that every activity can take place in a realistic setting. Students have the right tools, as well as a combination of standardized patients and high-tech models designed to replicate different medical situations.

Meanwhile, in a smaller program at Vermont Technical College, nursing students practice patient safety on a variety of patient simulators, from realistic infants to elderly patients. Students need, at minimum, what are termed medium-fidelity models in order to master skills, and programs are finally making this necessary advancement.

Healthcare encounters can be risky for patients, but proper training for providers can make even emergency situations much safer. In simulated circumstances, students are exposed to real-world scenarios. That way when it really matters, even the most challenging skills are simple muscle memory.


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