Simulation is a powerful tool in healthcare education to enhance learning and improve patient outcomes. Through simulation-based learning encounters, participants can engage in hands-on experiences that mimic real-life situations, allowing them to develop critical skills and knowledge.
The success of healthcare simulation educational encounters relies on the participants and the facilitators who guide and support the learning process. Understanding the psychological contract that needs to exist between participants, facilitators, and content designers, is crucial in creating a positive and effective learning environment. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of this psychological contract and discuss strategies to enhance it, ultimately leading to enhanced learning and improved outcomes in healthcare simulation.
While most discussions of the psychological contract are in the context of facilitating a simulation in real time, some elements are critically important to consider during the design process associated with simulation-based education encounters. How we structure our briefings, pre-briefings, and course schedules can dramatically influence our relationship with the participants to enhance the learning potential in the simulated environment.
I like to think of six essential elements when designing and facilitating simulations.
Professionalism: We agree to treat each other as professionals throughout simulation-based education encounters. The learner agrees to attempt to interact in the scenario as if they were taking care of an actual patient, and the simulation facilitator agrees that the scenario will be directed to respond with a reasonable facsimile of how an actual patient will respond to the care being delivered.
Confidentiality: The simulation program agrees to keep the performance assessment of participants confidential to the extent possible. The simulation participant should be apprised of the fate of any audio, video, or still photographic media generated from the simulation. If, by programmatic design, there is the intent to share any performance results, the participant should be aware of this before engagement in the program.
Time: The simulation facilitator commits to creating an environment of learning that respects the participant’s time. The simulation program commits to the intent that the simulation encounter and all associated time spent will help provide the participant with relevant, professional education and growth potential.
Realism/Deception: Both the participant and the facilitator acknowledge that the environment is not real and will contain varying degrees of realism. The simulation environment’s primary intent is to provide a reasonable facsimile of a healthcare encounter to serve as the background for the participant to demonstrate their clinical practice proficiency to the best of their knowledge in exchange for feedback that highlights areas of success and identifies areas of potential improvement. Our simulation-based scenario designs are modeled after actual patient encounters or close representations of cases that may occur within your practice domain. While the case may represent areas of diagnostic mystery or other unknowns, the scenarios are not designed to deceive or mislead the learner deliberately. The facilitator acknowledges there may be facsimiles of the simulation that may be misinterpreted by the learner as a matter of simulation scenario design limitations and will address them as appropriate, as they occur.
Judgment: While there will be an assessment of the learner’s performance to carry out effective feedback, it will be based upon known best practices, guidelines, algorithms, protocols, and professional judgment. No judgment will be associated with why a gap in knowledge or performance was identified. The facilitators agree to maintain a safe learning environment that invites questions, explorations, and clarifications as needed to enhance learning potential.
Humbleness: Healthcare is a complicated profession regardless of the practice domain. It requires the engagement of lifelong learners to learn and retain a significant amount of knowledge and skill. Additionally, there is a constant refinement of knowledge, best practices, and procedures. The facilitator acknowledges that they are imperfect and engage in the same lifelong learning journey as the participant.
While the descriptions associated with each element of the psychological contract in this post are more aligned with the engagement with senior learners or practicing professionals, it is easy to translate each category when working with students and other types of junior learners.
Educators and learners can establish a foundation of trust, collaboration, and active participation by understanding and embracing the tenants of psychological contracts in healthcare simulation. Careful consideration of these elements is beneficial during program design and when actively facilitating simulation-based learning encounters. This, in turn, enhances the learning outcomes, improves clinical practice, and prepares healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality care as they engage in real-world patient encounters and associated situations.
The next time you are designing or conducting simulation based education endeavors give careful consideration to the psychological contract!
Until next time, Happy Simulating!