Tag Archives: experiential learning

Simulation can be Fun. And Serious.

shutterstock_286597808aI was recently energized by sitting in the back of one of our simulation rooms where two of my faculty colleagues were running simulations for some of Emergency Medicine Residents. They had prepared the session well and had clearly established a previously great and trusting relationship with the residents in a safe learning kind of way.

The residents seemed relaxed, smiling, and many were attending the session dressed in the likes of Khacki shorts, Teva’s and a Hawaiian shirt or two. During one of the scenarios the faculty member operating the simulator made a mistake and the “patient” took a turn for the worse when the correct treatment was ordered. He was on the other side of the glass and immediately said something funny about his mistake over the room speakers in a self-deprecating way. Everyone in the room was cracking up including the other faculty members, me, all of the team members and the resident observers. The simulation came to an end a few minutes later as the rest of the learning objectives were met

During the debriefing the faculty member called out his mistake once again to another round of snickers. Superficially it seemed that he was trying to be funny. Deeper I think he was level setting to ensure there wasn’t confusion of the change in status over the patient. Additionally he was ensuring to demonstrate the safe learning environment in so far as declaring that he was capable of making mistakes as well.

A few moments later the residents were engaged in a debriefing using the Structured and Supportive Debriefing Model and the GAS tool. During the debriefing many topics were covered ranging from teamwork, the initial care and stabilization of the patient, to aberrancies in the electrical system of the heart leading to wide complex tachycardia that can mimic ventricular tachycardia.

A few minutes later the debriefing was wrapped up expertly by the faculty member. Another scenario ensued with a new group of residents and again, unplanned, something funny happened. Again laughter, then back to work, then the end. Debriefing commenced. During the second debriefing led to a discussion of how cyanide poisoning interacts with cellular metabolic pathways of the P450 cytochrome system and the therapeutics that should be considered to save the patient’s life. During the conversation a few light hearted comments by residents created more laughing.shutterstock_261594212a

I sat back thinking….. this is really fun…….There they are dressed in their tevas and shorts…..Learning of all things…… imagine that. This is truly patient-centric simulation. Innovative education occurring in a comfortable atmosphere helping these future emergency physicians perfect their diagnostic, therapeutic and leadership skills. They don’t need to be in scrubs, shirts and ties or wearing hospital badges to optimize this learning opportunity. They are not going to show up to work in the hospital wearing shorts and tevas. They are professionals. You know what? They are in fact adult learners being treated as adults.

I was a bite envious of my faculty colleagues having creating this amazingly relaxed environment where the residents felt comfortable to speak up, right or wrong in front of each other and faculty members alike.  In fact they were encouraged to explore during the cases. And they were learning. Learning new concepts or at least reviewing topics and learning objectives that were appropriate for their training program.

Guys and gals dressed as if they were going to a picnic, learning from each other, laughing and feeling free to explore and demonstrate their knowledge, skills and attitudes for the purpose of improving. Were they not taking it seriously? Cytochrome P450 and conduction aberrancies sure sounded serious to me, as did the discussion of teamwork and leadership.

Sometimes I think we can easily take ourselves too seriously in the simulation world. While I would be the first to argue there are times to do just that, I am reminded that there are times when it is not the case. People seem to be so caught up in defining rules of how things should and shouldn’t be done in simulation encounters that sometimes I observe huge opportunities to find new and interesting ways in which we can engage learners in their prime. I think that these faculty members new their participants well and designed amazing learning opportunities for them that included some of the power of simulation.

After all, we are not trying to simulate reality, we are trying to use simulation to create a milieu that will enhance our ability to carry out learning and assessment objectives that will eventually influence the care that is delivered by the healthcare system.

It was a great day for me, simulation and especially for future patients!

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Why Waste Time Learning On Real Patients?

MannequinMammalsOkay, admit it, this title will be challenging for some. Although the converse of the question is what some of the naysayers say about simulation. What’s the real deal? The real deal is learning from real patients is an invaluable part of the healthcare education experience. At the risk of alienating some we must think of the real patient experience as a “tool” in the educational toolbox. But there are many tools in the toolbox!

We must also recognize the value of learning in the simulated environment as an additional tool in the toolbox. When we have many different tools by which to complete a goal, going through the risks and benefits of each will help us make the proper decisions to allow us to proceed with the most efficiency and effectiveness in our educational endeavors.

When I observe aspects of examples of learning in the clinical environment I become easily frustrated with seeing examples of colossal amounts of time wasted while waiting for some nugget of education to randomly appear in the clinical environment. Paramedic and nursing students working in the clinical environment that are changing bed linens over and over again are clearly being used as a service to someone and not functioning in a capacity that is enhancing their clinical learning. Similarly interns that may be on a specialty care service that are dictating their 30th discharge summary of the month are probably being used more in a service capacity than one in an environment that enhances their education.

Some of the advantages of simulation include being able to structure the learning environment so that the time can be accounted for in a more robust fashion that helps to ensure that valuable learning opportunities are presented, encountered or participated in. Additionally the ability to do and re-do exist in the simulated environment, where as in most cases this is not possible in the actual clinical care environment.  This is important to enhance and create programs of mastery learning with incorporated deliberate practice. And this applies whether we are talking about individual expertise or that of groups of people working on collaborative goals in team training environment. Additionally, in many simulation program designs there is much closer oversight of what a learner or groups of learners is/are accomplishing in the simulated environment when compared to the oversight that occurs in most clinical learning environments.

Please don’t misunderstand; I am not trying to diminish the value of learning on real patients in the clinical environment. I am merely stating that there are pros and cons, limitations and capabilities of all different modalities of learning as we bring people along the journey of what it takes to become a practicing healthcare professional. It is one that is complex that requires multiple repetitions from different vantage points, perspectives, as well as opportunities for learning. Carefully evaluating those opportunities, the resources that are available in a given program are important concepts to ensure that we continue to improve the health care education for creating tomorrow’s healthcare providers.

Those who are in the capacity of creating new curriculum or revamping and revising old, would do well to think broadly about the needs of the learner, the level of learner and what would be optimal exposure to create the most efficient and effective learning at that point in time. We need to begin to challenge the existing status quo so that we can truly move forward in revising healthcare education to continue to allow people to achieve excellence.

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The Contract Essential to the Parties of Simulation

If you think about it an agreement needs to exist between those whom facilitate simulation and those who participate. Facilitate the purposes of this discussion is referring to those who create and execute simulation based learning encounters. Sometimes the agreement is more formal other times more implied. This phenomenon has been described in many ways over the yearsshutterstock_226296865 having been branded by such descriptors as fiction contract, psychological contract, or learning contract.

Why does this need to be the case? A contract or agreement is generally called for when two or more parties are engaging in some sort of collaborative relationship to accomplish something. Often times these type of contracts spell out the responsibilities of the parties involved. If you think about simulation at a high level the facilitator side is agreeing to provide learning activities using simulation to help the participant(s) become better healthcare providers. The participants are engaged at the highest level because they want to become better healthcare providers. While not trying to hold a comprehensive discussion, let’s explore this concept and the responsibilities of each party a bit further.

Facilitators are designing simulation activities with a variety of tools and techniques that are not perfect imitators of actual healthcare. They are crafting events for which the participant to a greater or lesser extent immerse themselves in, or at a minimum simply participate. Some of these activities are designed to contain diagnostic mystery, some demand specific knowledge, skills and attitudes be known or developed to successfully complete the program. Facilitators are also putting participants in situations that the must perform in front of others and that can create feelings of vulnerability. So all toll, the role of the facilitator comes with enormous responsibility.

Facilitators are also asking the participants to imagine part of what they are engaging in is a reasonable facsimile of what one may encounter when providing actual healthcare. Therefore another tenet of the agreement is that the facilitator will provide an adequate orientation to the simulation environment pointing out what is more and less real including the role that the participant may be playing and how their role interacts with the environment outside of the simulation, if at all. (I.e. define any communications that may occur during the simulation between the participants and the facilitator.

Facilitators trained in simulation know that mistakes occur sometimes due to a lack of knowledge, incorrect judgement or unrelated issues such as a poorly designed simulation. Facilitators thereby commit to not judge the participant in anything other than their performance during the simulation. While diagnostic conundrums are inevitable in many types of simulations the facilitator should not try to unnecessarily trick or mislead the participant in any way that is not directly contributing to helping the participant(s) improve. The facilitator must attempt to use the time of the participants wisely and responsibly.

The role of the participant shares responsibilities as a part of the agreement as well. Participants agree to a commitment to become better healthcare providers through continuous learning and improvement. This is inherent in a professional, but there are some likely good reasonsshutterstock_147464348 to remind participants of this important premise.

Participants must agree to the use of their time to participate in the simulation. The participants are also agreeing to an understanding that they know the environment of the simulation is not real, and that there will be varying levels of realism employed to help them perform in the simulation. But to be clear they agree to this tenet predicated on the trust that that facilitators are having the participant experience simulations that are relevant to what they do, with an underlying commitment to help them get better. In simulations involving multiple participants, they must also agree to similarly not judge others on what occurs in the simulation, as well as keeping the personal details of what they experience in the simulation confidential.

So in closing, successful simulation or other immersive learning environments require an agreement of sorts between those who create and execute the simulation based learning environments as well as those who participate in them. Each party brings a set of responsibilities to the table to help to ensure a rich learning environment with appropriate professional decorum and commitment to improvement. The agreements range from implicit to explicit, but when they exist and are adhered to will continue to allow the recognition of value that can arise from simulation to help improve the care ultimately delivered to our patients. After all, isn’t that our highest goal?

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Simulation Can Be the Model Flipped Classroom

FlippedClassroomSimulation can be utilized in a manner that is consistent with the current recognition of the gains and benefits of “The Flipped Classroom”. Essentially the flipped classroom that many educators are talking so much about is an engagement of the students that is different than traditional models. Historically learner show up to lectures to learn about a new topic and then are assigned homework to reinforce the concepts. In the model of the flipped classroom, the students are provided with tools such as lectures, video examples, resources, reading lists that introduce the topic and allow a cognitive exploration BEFORE coming to class. Then they show up to the face-to-face activity and instead of hearing a lecture from the professor are engaged in higher levels of cognitive processing regarding the topic. These higher levels could be conducting experiments, experiential learning, exploration, group discussions debating a topic, or perhaps engaging in scholarly debate on the merits.

Imagine education surrounding a topic that involves pre-learning such as web-based education, video reviews, or other activities that either introduce a new topic or perhaps refresh the cognitive underpinnings of the subject matter. Then have the learners come together in a face-to-face environment and engage in experiential learning through simulation of various sorts that may include mannequin based simulation, partial task training workshops or content review discussions. It seems like the ultimate combination.

Interestingly, as I have been reading more about the Flipped Classroom I realize that we have been utilizing these concepts for many years in Simulation in particular with our programs aimed at training residents and practicing professionals. At my center (WISER) many of our courses are created with just that type of overall education strategy. Our Simulation Information Management System (SIMS) houses over 125 courses many which have extensive online materials for subject matter review prior to the actual simulation day. Subject materials may be pre-recorded lectures, PowerPoints, screen based simulations, videos demonstrating correct performance for example. Some courses even perform pre-tests before the actual simulation encounter to ensure that the cognitive preparation has been completed.

Intuitively it is easy to understand the advantages. The face-to-face time that students spend together in conjunction with faculty members is generally the most expensive time of the education. So it seems that we should be creating activities that maximize the effectiveness of the precious face-to-face time. Now the technology is no longer a barrier for the dissemination of information we can appeal to various learner types and styles, as well as keep the face-to-face time for much higher-levels of engagement. Thinking about it from a Kirkpatrick model we can move the reaction and learning levels to a more efficient off-site, self-paced exploration and learning, and then maximize the time the face-to-face environment with faculty to achieve higher levels of knowledge acquisition and expertise such as behaviors and results.

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Kirkpatrick Model of Training Evaluation

During the learning and reaction phases the learners can obtain the materials at their own pace and perhaps have a choice of methods by which to achieve the cognitive learning objectives. This increases the efficiency as learners who are mastering the material more quickly can move along to more advanced topics, and those who need a little more time, or need to review several times over have the ability to do so.

During the face to face sessions simulations scenarios can provide a deeply immersive learning environment for learners, and then this can be augmented by rich interactive discussion with faculty members as well as peers as continual mastery of the materials are recognized. The experiential learning offered by simulation can help to demonstrate the student’s mastery of the material from a cognitive perspective as well as demonstrate the ability to apply to real-world or near real world settings and circumstances.

This combination of cognitive priming or preparation with the experiential immersive process seems right to apply to the healthcare education environment. Recognizing that simulation, mannequin based simulation in particular, can be an expensive time-consuming endeavor; we need to ensure that we are maximizing the overall outcome of the educational experience.

Thus I argue simulation can be the Model Flipped Classroom and provide significant return on investment for topics that are appropriately bundled in the fashion described.

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