Sherlock Holmes and the Students of Simulation

I want to make a comparison between Sherlock Holmes and the students of our simulations! It has important implications for our scenario design process. When you think about it, there’s hypervigilance amongst our students, looking for clues during the simulation. They are doing so to figure out what we want them to do. Analyzing such clues is like the venerable detective Sherlock Holmes’s processes when investigating a crime.

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This has important implications for our scenario design work because many times, we get confused with the idea that our job is to create reality when in fact, it is not that at all our job. As simulation experts, our jobs are to create an environment with the reality that is sufficient to allow a student to progress through various aspects of the provision of health care. We need to be able to make a judgment and say, “hey, they need some work in this area,” and “hey, they’re doing good in this area.”

To accomplish this, we create facsimiles of what they will experience in the actual clinical environment transported into the simulated environment to help them adjust their mindset so they can progress down the pathway of taking care of those (simulated) patient encounters.

We must be mindful that during the simulated environment, people engage their best Sherlock Holmes, and as the famous song goes, [they are] “looking for clues at the scene of the crime.”
Let’s explore this more practically.

Suppose I am working in the emergency department, and I walk into the room and see a knife sitting on the tray table next to a patient. In that case, I immediately think, “wow, somebody didn’t clean this room up after the last patient, and there’s a knife on the tray. I would probably apologize about it to the patient and their family.”

Fast forward…..

Put me into a simulation as a participant, and I walk into the room. I see the knife on the tray next to the patient’s bed, and I immediately think, “Ah, I’m probably going to do a crich or some invasive procedure on this patient.”

How does that translate to our scenario design work? We must be mindful that the students of our simulations are always hypervigilant and always looking for these clues. Sometimes when we have things included in the simulation, we might just have there as window dressing or to try to (re)create some reality. However, stop to think they can be misinterpreted as necessary to be incorporated into the simulation by the student for success in their analysis.

Suddenly, the student sees this thing sitting on the table, so they think it is essential for them to use it in the simulation, and now they are using it, and the simulation is going off the tracks! As the instructor, you’re saying that what happened is not what was supposed to happen!

At times we must be able to objectively go back and look at the scenario design process and recognize maybe just maybe something we did in the design of the scenario, which includes the setup of the environment, that misled the participant(s). If we see multiple students making the same mistakes, we must go back and analyze our scenario design. I like to call it noise when we put extra things into the simulation scenario design. It’s noise, and the potential for that noise to blow up and drive the simulation off the tracks goes up exponentially with every component we include in the space. Be mindful of this and be aware of the hypervigilance associated with students undergoing simulation.

We can negate some of these things by a good orientation, by incorporating the good practice into our simulation scenario design so that we’re only including items in the room that are germane to accomplishing the learning objectives.

Tip: If you see the same mistakes happening again and again, please introspect, go back, look at the design of your simulation scenario, and recognize there could be a flaw! Who finds such flaws in the story?  Sherlock Holmes, that’s who!

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Filed under Curriculum, design, scenario design, simulation

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