Tag Archives: simulation

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.

Video version of this post

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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5 Tips to Improve Interrater Reliability During Healthcare Simulation Assessments

One of the most important concepts in simulation-based assessment is achieving reliability, and specifically interrater reliability. While I have discussed previously in this blog every simulation is assessment, in this article I am speaking of the type of simulation assessment that requires one or more raters to record data associated with the performance or more specifically an assessment tool.

Interpreter reliability simply put is that if we have multiple raters watching a simulation and using a scoring rubric or tool, that they will produce similar scores. Achieving intermittent reliability is important for several reasons including that we are usually using more than one rater to evaluate simulations over time. Other times we are engaged in research and other high stakes reasons to complete assessment tools and want to be certain that we are reaching correct conclusions.

Improving assessment capabilities for stimulation requires a significant amount of effort. The amount of time and effort that can go into the assessment process should be directly proportional to the stakes of the assessment.

In this article I offer five tips to consider for improving into rate of reliability when conducting simulation-based assessment

1 – Train Your Raters

The most basic and overlooked aspect of achieving into rate and reliability comes from training of the raters. The raters need to be trained to the process, the assessment tools, and each item of the assessment that they are rendering an opinion on. It is tempting to think of subject matter experts as knowledgeable enough to fill out simple assessments however you will find out with detailed testing that often the scoring of the item is truly in the eye of the beholder. Simple items like “asked medical history” may be difficult to achieve reliability if not defined prior to the assessment activity. Other things may affect the assessment that require rater calibration/training such as limitations of the simulation, and how something is being simulated and/or overall familiarity with the technology that may be used to collect the data.

2 – Modify Your Assessment Tool

Modifications to the assessment tool can enhance interrelated reliability. Sometimes it can be extreme as having to remove an assessment item because you figure out that you are unable to achieve reliability despite iterative attempts at improvement. Other less drastic changes can come in the form of clarifying the text directives that are associated with the item. Sometimes removing qualitative wording such as “appropriately” or “correctly” can help to improve reliability. Adding descriptors of expected behavior or behaviorally anchored statements to items can help to improve reliability. However, these modifications and qualifying statements should also be addressed in the training of the raters as described above.

3 – Make Things Assessable (Scenario Design)

An often-overlooked factor that can help to improve indurated reliability is make modifications to the simulation scenario to allow things to be more “assessable”. We make a sizable number of decisions when creating simulation-based scenarios for education purposes. There are other decisions and functions that can be designed into the scenario to allow assessments to be more accurate and reliable. For example, if we want to know if someone correctly interpreted wheezing in the lung sounds of the simulator, we introduced design elements in the scenario that could help us to gather this information accurately and thus increase into rater reliability. For example, we could embed a person in the scenario to play the role of another healthcare provider that simply asks the participant what they heard. Alternatively, we could have the participant fill out a questionnaire at the end of the scenario, or even complete an assessment form regarding the simulation encounter. Lastly, we could embed the assessment tool into the debriefing process and simply ask the participant during the debriefing what they heard when I auscultated the lungs. There is no correct way to do this, I am trying to articulate different solutions to the same problem that could represent solutions based on the context of your scenario design.

4 – Assessment Tool Technology

Gathering assessment data electronically can help significantly. When compared to a paper and pencil collection scheme technology enhanced or “smart” scoring systems can assist. For example, if there are many items on a paper scoring tool the page can sometimes become unwieldy to monitor. Electronic systems can continuously update and filter out data that does not need to be displayed at a given point in time during the unfolding of the simulation assessment. Simply having previously evaluated items disappear off the screen can reduce the clutter associated with scoring tools.

5 – Consider Video Scoring

For high stakes assessment and research purposes it is often wise to consider video scoring. High stakes meaning pass/fail criteria associated with advancement in a program, heavy weighting of a grade, licensure, or practice decisions. The ability to add multiple camera angles as well as the functionality to rewind and play back things that occurred during the simulation are valuable in improving the scoring accuracy of the collected data which will subsequently improve the interrater reliability. Video scoring associated with assessments requires considerable time and effort and thus reserved for the times when it is necessary.

I hope that you found these tips useful. Assessment during simulations can be an important part of improving the quality and safety of patient care!

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Thanks and until next time! Happy Simulating.

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Adjuncts to Enhance Debriefing

I wanted to discuss some ideas of using adjuncts as part of your debriefing.

When we think about debriefing, we often think about a conversation between faculty member or members and participants of simulation with a focus on everyone developing an understanding of what they did right as well as what they need to improve upon.  We rarely think about the possibility of including other “things” to enhance the learning that comes from the debriefing.

I tend to incorporate adjuncts into a many of the debriefings associated with courses that I design.  What I mean is things that added into the debriefing process/environment that can enhance the discussion.  Sometimes with deliberate purpose, and other times just to mix it up a little bit so that it is not just a dialogue between the participants and the faculty.  It may be something technical, it may be something as simple as a paper handout.

Simple Task Trainer as an Adjunct

Some ideas of adjuncts include PowerPoint slide deck or a few targeted slides that help to review a complex topic, one that requires a deeper understanding, or a subject that benefits from repetition of exposure.  Another type of adjunct is the simulator log file which can help set the stage for the debriefing and create a pathway of discussion that chronologically follows what happened during the simulation.  Another adjunct could be a partial task trainer or a model that helps to describe or demonstrate something.  For example, the students forgot to do a jaw-thrust or open the airway.  We can use a task trainer, or a teaching aide incorporated into the discussion during the debriefing.  

Example of an Algorithm Poster on the Wall

Other things that I use are charts, graphs, and algorithms that may represent best practices.  When I debrief during my difficult airway management course for physicians, I have the algorithm up on the wall hanging as a poster.  We use the algorithm posters as a pathway to compare the performance of the participants of the simulation with what the ideal case would be.  You can use the adjunct learning aid as a reference to standards.  This can help you to take yourself out of the direct argument of right vs. wrong.  This allows use of the adjunct as a third-party messenger of a reference to best practices excellence when I have the participants compare their performance against what appears on the algorithm.  This allows them to discover their own variations from the expected standard.  It tends to create powerful learning moments without the faculty having to be “the bearer of bad news!”

I think that if you start to strategically think about how to incorporate adjuncts into your debriefing you will find the students are more satisfied with the debriefing.  It also increases the stickiness of the learning and creates a more enjoyable experience for the faculty member as well as the participants.  Try it!  It does not have to be fancy!

Thanks, and as always,

Happy Simulating!

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Five Tips for Creating Hybrid Curricula for Simulation Based Learning

For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that hybrid curriculums in simulation combine online educational materials in advance of on-site activities involving (in person) simulation into one curriculum.  

Why Hybrid?

There are things that we want the student to obtain knowledge on from a perspective of knowing things, or cognitively loading, for an upcoming education event. This often lends itself to carefully created on-line course work.

The in-person side of the equation is best used for when we want to see people doing things, particularly doing things with an understanding of the knowledge that they had already studied during the pre-work described above.  Combining these two facets, or hybrid learning, are some of the most efficient and effective designs for simulation programs.

Accompanying Video Discussion

Advantages

It allows students to be fully prepared from a knowledge perspective before the simulation encounters. This will allow you to conduct your simulation encounters at a much higher level by “raising the tide” of the knowledge of the learners in advance.  Such a design can potentially reduce unnecessary (costly) time in the simulation center. It also allows for students to assimilate the knowledge portion of your program at their own pace on their own time. Further, it helps to set the expectations of what the learners will need to incorporate when they participate in the simulations. Conducting the online portion as pre-work allows the student to seek out additional instruction mediums to help enhance their knowledge base understanding of the materials.

Disadvantages

Curriculum planning will require more effort. It’s more complicated than just deploying a simulation or just creating online education in isolation. You’re doing both! Combining the two which means that there is a time investment in creating the online materials that didn’t exist before we decided to move into a hybrid curriculum. There may be additional skills or resources needed associated with the creation of the materials and/or the administration of some sort of learning management system to make the online curriculum available to your learner population.

Students may not do the work online and prepare like they should before they come to your simulation center. Thus, you need to consider building incentives into the program that creates a compelling reason to do the work.

Tip 1: Begin with the End in Mind

Start with a detailed list of exactly what we want them to know and exactly what they want them to do. Yes, folks it is creating learning objectives, just like we’re designing simulations. Then carefully decide what is knowledge, what is skills and what is application of skills to help parse out which of the curriculum can benefit from on-line (pre) learning.  

Tip 2: Create High Quality Learning Materials

You want your students to take the online materials seriously. So, it is important to ensure they are of high quality, contribute to the learning, and not distracting. Not everything in your pre-learning needs to be Hollywood quality. Many people now do cell phone or mobile phone videos, and that’s fine! However, I want to caution you on the audio. You must make the audio or sound as good as the picture looks. If not, it is distracting, and your students may not take things seriously.

Tip 3: Create Active Learning for the Pre-Course Material

Try to create components of active learning in your online materials. Just because it’s online material and delivered asynchronously doesn’t mean there can’t be an active component. Resist the urge to simply regurgitate one of your old lectures and then toss it up online!

Find small opportunities to have them DO something. It might be as simple as asking them to write out a list of the steps of a procedure, drawing a diagram that they see on the screen, or maybe connecting social media so that they are communicating and learning from and/or with their peers. Lastly, having them taking an on-line assessment or quiz can serve as an effective tool.  

Tip 4: Ensure Learner Expectations and Consequences are Clear

Make sure your learners are clear on their responsibilities associated with the completion of the online materials, and what the consequences are if they don’t. Additionally, ensure the learners understand how the pre-course content is linked to the expectations that will be encountered when they arrive for the simulation sessions.

Some design examples include having the learners take a written pretest when they arrive at the simulation center and determine whether they have adequately prepared for the simulation or not. Other examples make it clear that they will be called on and expected to know the answers for the content contained in the pre-course materials.  It is important that we are fair to the student, with hybrid education, we need to ensure that the learner expectations and consequences are very clear.

TIP 5: Link Your Online Materials Directly to Your Simulations

Work to create an integrated continuum of learning that carries forward from the online materials through the expectations that the learners will encounter during the simulations. This can be emphasized through the direct inclusion of online materials into your simulation sessions. 

Consider including exact diagrams, exact pictures, exact phrases and themes utilized during the online learning during your face-to-face instruction. It might be in the form of a mini lecture. It might be audio/visuals that are incorporated during the debriefing process that can trigger in their mind the lessons that were learned from the online material and how it’s being applied to the simulation session learning outcomes.

Conclusions

The words online and hybrid can cause educators to become nervous because of the amount of work that’s involved as well as not understanding how to make those linkages between the pre-course materials and the simulation sessions. Admittedly, it is more work, but I would argue that the outcomes are far superior then either modality alone. Think of it as an investment. Things that can be moved to the online portion of hybrid design can prepare the learners so the valuable on-site time with the faculty can be conducted at a higher level.

I think that by incorporating good hybrid design with these tips, you will find that you will be creating exceptional learning environments for your students.

Until the next time, happy simulating!

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Simulation Training and Programs in Healthcare are Essential

It is important to remember that the primary constituents that are the primary beneficiaries of efforts involved in healthcare simulation are the patients that we serve. While simulation has existed for centuries, over the last several decades the case has been made that simulation efforts contribute significantly to the quality and safety associated with the delivery of healthcare.

Undoubtedly the pandemic has turned the world on its end. This includes the delivery of healthcare at the front lines as well as the education and assessment programs involving simulation that contribute to quality and safety. While the pandemic has had far reaching impact on all of us, one thing that has not changed is the need for patients to have access to the highest quality healthcare in the safest possible fashion. Simulation efforts around the world contribute mightily to this need.

Healthcare simulation efforts are far reaching. Goals range from the education of future and current health care providers, assessing competency, to uncovering latent threats that exist that could possibly harm our patients. Our patients cannot afford significant delays or the halting of such programs and to do so would be a dereliction of our moral and ethical imperatives to keep patients safe.

At the beginning of the pandemic and continuing at present there seems to be a mad scramble to transfer learning to online activities, and/or suspend hands on simulation training. As simulation leaders and professionals, we need to ensure that our efforts are dedicated to planning the future, both far and near. For the near, foreseeable future that includes coexisting with the Covid virus. We must proceed forward with the conducting of our simulation-based programs in a way that is aligned with best practices of safety and prevention that is associated with the spread of the virus.

Reengineering our existing programs to accommodate for masks, appropriate PPE, social distancing where possible, aggressive cleaning policies and other such items are important part of the leadership process. As an example, going the extra mile and perhaps splitting one class into two to cut down the number of occupants in a given space maybe part of a reasonable curricular engineering solution. Reevaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the hands-on part of the simulation and deciding if elements of the education could be adequately be covered online may be another part of the equation.

The far future and impact of the Covid related disruption(s) may bring us new technologies and enhanced ways to conduct simulations remotely. One could dream. Perhaps on-line coupled with enhanced virtual and/or augmented reality whilst practicing and learning with our colleagues! What is unreasonable is to think that all of the simulation specific training that we do can be hastily flopped online and converted to a zoom session! While it may have been an important urgent stop-gap transition task in February, do not mistake it as the long-term solution without careful evaluation and assessment.

Ensuring we are conducting our programs in the safest way possible with regard to the participants, the teaching faculty, as well as all of the staff and all humans associated with the simulation program required to support the effort is of paramount importance. This requires careful attention and significant leadership oversight whether we are teaching practicing professionals or students of health care programs. Our patients, the primary reason that we do simulation and those who have the most to lose if we don’t, are counting on us for the quality and safety associated with the healthcare they are receiving.

Simulation is not an optional, nice to have program. It is as essential as adequate staffing, ventilators, and fire alarm systems. It contributes significantly to the process that allows us to provide safe and high-quality care a most vulnerable population of people that we call patients.

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Where do we Debrief?

Selecting the location to conduct the debriefing after a simulation is a decision that often has many variable. Sometimes there are limited choices and the choice is dictated by what is available, or what space holds the technology that is deemed essential to the debriefing. Other times there is deliberate planning and selection.

This short video explores some of the basics of how such decisions are made and some of the pros and cons associated with the final choices.

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Exploring the Elements of Orientation and (Pre)Briefing in Simulation Based Learning Design

AdobeStock_119412077

I want to explore a little bit about orientation and (pre)briefing(s) associated with simulation based education design concepts. The words are often tossed about somewhat indiscriminately. However it is important to realize they are both important elements of successful healthcare simulation and serve distinct purposes.

When we look in the Healthcare Simulation Dictionary, we find that the definition of Orientation is aligned with an overview preparation process including “… intent of preparing the participants.” Examples include center rules, timing and the simulation modalities.

On the other hand, according to the same dictionary the definition of the word Briefing includes “An activity immediately preceding the start of a simulation activity where participants receive essential information about the simulation scenario….”

I look at orientation as the rules of engagement. I like to think of orientation linked to the overall educational activity in total. Some essential components include orientation to the simulation center, the equipment, the rules, and the overall schedule for the learning activity.

At a somewhat deeper level of thought I think the orientation is linked to the learning contract. What do I mean by that?

I think it is essential that we as the faculty are establishing a relationship with our learners and begin to establish trust and mutual respect. To that end, we can use orientation to minimize surprises. Adult learners do not like surprises!

We need to have the adult learner understand what they can expect. I always orient the learners as to what will feel real, and I am similarly honest with them about what will not feel real. If they will be interacting with a computerized simulator for example, I orient them to the simulator before the start of the program.

In the simulation world we throw around words like debriefing, scenario and task training. To clinical learners these terms may be unfamiliar, or have different contexts associated with them. This for example, can cause anxiety and during the orientation we need to walk them through the experience they are about to embark upon.

Some factors can influence the amount and depth of the orientation. Variables such as the familiarity your participants have with simulation, your simulation center, and your simulation-based encounters. For example, learners who come to your center on the monthly basis probably need less total orientation than those who are reporting for the first time. Learners familiar with the fact that debriefings occur after every simulation may already be acclimated to that concept, but people coming to the sim center for the first time may not be aware of that at all.

Participants just meeting you for the first time they might need a little bit more warming up and that an come in the form of orientation. Overall though it is not just about telling them what’s going on, as it is using the opportunity toward earning their trust and confidence in the simulated learning encounter(s) and the value associated to them as a professional.

BriefingGraphic3Switching the focus to the brief, briefing or (pre)briefing. The briefing is more linked to the scenario as compared to the orientation. The briefing should focus on the details of the case at hand introducing components of information that allow one to acclimate to what they going to need to accomplish during the simulation. What is their role and goals in this scenario they are about to embark upon? If you are going to ask people to play different roles then they are in real life, it is very important that this fact is crystal clear in the briefing.

I think that the briefing should also bring the context to the healthcare experience. It is important to orient the learner for the impending encounter what they are to perceive and think of as real as they are experiencing what is in the simulation. You as a simulation faculty may think that it is obvious that a room in your simulation center is an ICU bed. The participant may not and deserves clarity prior to the start of the simulation so they do not feel like they are being tricked or duped. During the briefing the statement “You are about to see a patient in the ICU…..” can remove such ambiguity.

Another critical briefing point is to clarify the faculty-student engagement rules that should be expected during the scenario runtime if it was not covered in the orientation. There are many correct ways to conduct simulation scenarios. There are varying levels of interaction between faculty members running the simulation and the learners that are participating. This should be clarified before the scenario starts.

For example, are you going to let the learners ask questions of the of the faculty member during the simulation? Or not? This should be upfront and covered in the briefing, and perhaps even aspects of that in the orientation.

While not a requirement I think that parameters associated with time expectations are always good to give in a briefing. For example stating “You are going to have 10 minutes in the scenario to accomplish X,Y and Z, and then we will have a ten minute debriefing before the next scenario.”

Remember our adult learners don’t like surprises! I always use the briefing before a scenario to remind the participant(s) that afterward we are going to have a debriefing. I remind them of that so that they know that they should collect her thoughts and ideas and be ready to have this discussion. Secondly, I am saying in any unspoken way, that if they are uncomfortable about something, or have questions, that there will be an opportunity for discussion during the debriefing. (In other words, your sort of giving some control back to the learner…. Helping to build the trusting relationship.)

Some of the variations of the briefing are similar to that of the orientation mentioned above. People who are more familiar to simulation, your particular programs, your style, may require slightly less of a briefing than others. Additionally, if you are running multiple scenarios as part of a simulation-based course, after the first couple of scenarios you will find that the briefing can be shortened as compared to the beginning of the day.

So, in summary, orientation and briefings are different elements of simulation-based learning that are useful for different things that will contribute to the success of your simulations.

Think of orientation linked to the bigger picture and the learner contract that contributes to making the relationship comfortable between the participants and the faculty. The orientation is the rules of engagement and orientation to the technology and being explicit as to what is to be expected of the participant. Think of the briefing as linked more to the scenario roles, goals, and introduction to patient and environment information to help the participant mentally acclimate to what they are about to dive into.

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Simulation, Music, and Dancing

Many of you know of my crazy thoughts and ideas to try to connect things together with contrasts and comparisons to help people understand concepts and ideas. Well…. Here goes another one of them!Dance

I find that people continuously struggle with understanding the true relationship of the scenario (defined as the collective information, tools, and techniques that are presented to participants of simulations) to the outcomes of the simulation. The confusion arises from the fact that people get inappropriate messaging during the formative times of their simulation careers.

People gain the idea that the scenario must be as real as possible, or perfect mimic some aspect of real life in healthcare in order to be effective instead of recognition that the sole purpose is to create a script and stage that allows participants to perform. Some people believe that the overall goal of simulation is to recreate reality. The sad part is, those misguided thoughts often lead to over-production of the scenario and that the scenario is the primary focus of the activity. This can lead to the unintended consequences of increasing the workload of the simulation relative to the value of performance improvement and/or introduce confusion to the participants of the scenario.  Neither of which are desirable.

It occurred to me recently that a terrific analogy can be made by evaluating the relationship of music, to competitive dance. As it turns out the scenario is simply the music.

Thinks about it. When a dancer or group of dancers are going to compete, a number of things must be in place. First, there is an understanding that the dance will be carried out with the playing of music. The activity will last a certain length of time, involve one or more people who are supposed to do certain things at certain times and that various details will be assessed or evaluated along the way. At times the evaluation maybe be structured to focus on improvement (formative) and perhaps feedback is shared along the way (deliberate practice preparing for a competition), while other times may it may be a high-stakes evaluation (summative) resulting in only a score (the actual competition).

Now let’s focus on the music. What is its purpose in a dance competition? If you think about it, the music providers the framework or backdrop against which the dancing activity occurs. It helps to coordinate the tone, the tempo, and the activities associated with the dance. If the objective is to assess a pair of dancers doing a waltz, then a waltz is played. So the learning objective would read, at the conclusion of this five minute activity, the participants will demonstrate the ability to perform a waltz. If we wanted to evaluate a Latin dance, we would play Latin music and have an appropriate assessment criterion by which to guide the improvement of the activity.

While it is technically possible for the assessment to occur in the absence of the music, it would be awkward for the participants and the evaluators as well. Further, a piece of music may be specifically chosen to encourage a certain dance move that would facilitate the evaluation of the activity, let’s say a twirl or a flip. If we needed to evaluate or score how well one performed a flip, a flip would need to occur during the dance.

When using the methods of simulation in the healthcare world, we need to see people dance. The dance we need to see is often a complex one involving the delivery of healthcare, but it is a dance none the less involving specific movements, communications, and other activities toward a specific goal There are times that we need to see individuals dance, other times teams.

If we are to evaluate a certain element of healthcare, then we must have carefully composed the music that propagated the desired activity to have occurred during the dance. As they dance, we perform an assessment with a goal of helping them improve through various feedback mechanisms. Such feedback may occur through active reflection and facilitated discussion (debriefing), self-reflection, peer to peer engagement, or perhaps in the delivery of a more formal score in the case of summative feedback.

The bigger point is, the scenario is constructed and executed (composed) to provide the background milieu to form the basis of the dance, i.e. have participants perform the activity that we wish to assess. We choose different types [of music] to play that is concordant with the activity we wish to evaluate. At times we play a tune that accentuates the evaluation of critical thinking skills, perhaps the performance of a complex skill, or maybe one that allows a whole team to dance together requiring teamwork that will benefit from feedback.

So, the next time you are composing your scenario, give careful consideration to the moves that you desire to evaluate. The music that plays should allow/encourage your dancers to perform the steps and activities that will be evaluated and turned into useful information to facilitate improvement.

Compose, have people dance and help them get better!

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Five Pearls for Debriefing 

Sharing some practical considerations to help you with your debriefing efforts!

 

Shell with a pearl

1. Before you begin attend to learner readiness 

Before you begin ensuring the emotional readiness of your learners will be a huge benefit. Learning during a debriefing can be enhanced by reducing distractions. Such distractions can occur from many possible origins. If learners are particularly stressed, angry or perhaps sad after simulation experience it is best to let them process their emotions or otherwise emotionally and mentally prepare themselves to be able to focus on the content of the debriefing. So, taking a few minutes to observe, or perhaps even directly asking, “Are you ready?” may go a long way. Also, another tool that I use after a stressful simulation is to just acknowledge that there may be stress with a statement such as “Wow. That looked stressful. Are you guys ready to talk about it?” 

2. During the debriefing, listen to the learners, analyze their thoughts and understanding 

A structured debriefing should provide the opportunity to listen to learners. This allows the debriefer to analyze if the learners have a command of the facts and understanding of the intended learning associated with the simulation. It is easy to become impatient with the process and start telling the learners what they need to know. Once this occurs, it is difficult to assess what the learners do know and understand. As you listen to learners during the debriefing think about what you need to ask next, or where you need to take the conversation to be able to analyze the next area of content you wish to explore during the debriefing. So another tip is shift your thoughts to how can I discover if my learners know….. as opposed to the normal transmittal of information that comes from thinking I need to tell them X, Y and Z so that they understand. 

3. What went right is as important as what went wrong 

There is a saying that the negative screams and the positive whispers. This could not be truer when it comes to debriefing. It is far easier to remember what people did wrong during a scenario, then what they did right. But if you sit back and think about it, they are equally as important. Learners leaving a debriefing understanding that they did correctly and why it was correct, paired with an understanding what they did wrong and why it was wrong is critically important for improvement to occur. If the right things are not debriefedit may be that they were done out of habit or luck and that the learners don’t understand it at all! Or worse yet, they could be perceived as unimportant. So a good tip is to jot some noted down of things that went correctly during a scenario. Trust me, you’ll remember all those mistakes which will be screaming! 

4. Keep the debriefing focused 

A challenge for anyone conducting a debriefing is to keep things focused. Learners love to talk about what learners want to talk about. However, it’s important as the facilitators of the conversation that we have the learners talking about what they need to be talking about. What learners need to be talking about should be driven by the learning objectives of the scenario. This direction needs to come from the debriefer. There is a delicate relationship that exists between the learners and the debriefer so carefully thinking about how to maintain this but being able to gently nudge the conversation back to the right pathway is a skill worth concentrating on. A tip is to develop some scripts that you are comfortable using when such nudging need to occur.  

Consider this example, “I agree that the exact dosage of the medication is critically important, but for this scenario and debriefing we are tasked with focusing on the effectiveness of the communications within the team. So, who can give me an example of effective communications that occurred during the scenario?”  

 5. Bring out summary/take home points 

Every simulation has a plethora of opportunities for learning. It is the job of the debriefer to ensure that the primary learning objectives of the simulation are covered. During complicated cases or cases with multiple learning objectives it is possible to cover a lot of ground along with many topics and facts during the time when you are analyzing the learners grasp of the content. It is important to close with summary points that are crucial take home messages. This can be challenging for some, and often turns into a mini lecture. And remember when you start lecturing to the learners, you are sacrificing the ability to ensure understanding where the learner is at that point and time. Concluding or beginning the wrap up of the debriefing by asking leaners to give one or two things that they think went well during the scenario along with what they would  change next time can be an effective probe into understanding that the learners took away the big learning messages. It also serves as the time to allow you to shape the discussion with further questions that drive home the intended take away points. Always think to yourself what are the two or three things that I want them to remember most from this experience a month from now. 

Well that’s is for now. Remember debriefing gets better with practice, feedback and experience. So, get out there, debriefget some feedback and debrief again! 

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5 Elements in My Approach to the Learning Contract in Simulation

In simulation-based education there is a relationship between the faculty of the program and the participants that is important during all aspects of simulation. The relationship has tenets of trust and respect that must be considered when designing as well as conducting simulations. I have heard this relationship referred to by a few titles such as psychological contract, fiction contract, learning contract, all of which are generally referring to the same thing.Smiling asian female vacancy candidate shaking hand with hr manager

Probably more important than the title, is what such a relationship embodies or focuses on. I view it as an agreement between two or more parties that acknowledges several aspects of simulation based programs and works to establish rules of engagement and principles of interactions between those involved.

In my practice of using simulation for clinical education I work a great deal with practicing professionals, who by in large are physicians. I generally adhere to five elements or premises over the course of interactions that I design as well as provide for the participants of my programs.

  1. Meaningful use of Your Time.

Acknowledging up front that participating in learning activities takes time away from their busy schedule. I assure them that the content of the program is carefully crafted to fill the needs of their learning cohort in the mostly timely way possible. I refer to refinements of the course that have occurred in response to feedback from prior participants to help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the program.

  1. This is NOT real and that’s really ok!

During the orientation I am always careful to point out that not everything they are going to experience will look or feel real. I include the idea that things are “real-enough” to help us create a successful learning environment. I also let them know the things that may feel somewhat real during the simulation. Additionally, I emphasize that the “realness” is not the primary focus and point out that the learning and reinforcement of high-quality clinical practice is the ultimate outcome.

  1. We are not here to trick you.

I find that practicing professionals often come to simulation training endeavors with an idea that we design programs to exploit their mistakes. I assure them this is not the case. I am careful to include an overview of what they can expect during all phases of the learning. For example, when I am conducting difficult airway programs, I carefully orient them to every feature of the simulators airway mechanics before starting any scenarios. I also let them know that the cases associated with our scenarios are modeled after actual cases of clinical care. I explain that while we don’t model every detail of the case, that we work hard to design situations that provide opportunity to promote discussion and learning that would have or should have resulted from the actual case.

  1. Everyone makes mistakes. We are here to learn from each other.

At the most basic part of this element, I point out that WE all make mistakes and that is part of being human. I let them know that everyone is likely to make a mistake throughout the learning program. I carefully weave in the idea that it is far better to make mistakes in the simulated environment as opposed to when providing actual clinical care.

Further, I advance the idea that we can learn from each other. As everyone in clinical practice knows, there are many ways to do most things correctly. While this idea can be challenging because often people feel that “their way” is the correct way, I point out that with an open mind and professional, collaborative discussion we can share learnings with each other.

Contract Signing Concept

  1. We are here to help you be the best you can be.

Leveraging the idea that almost all practicing professional hold themselves to high levels of performance standards as well as the desire to improve can provide a powerful connection between the faculty and participants of a healthcare simulation program. I put forth this idea along with carefully tying in a review of the prior four elements. Further, I point out to them the opportunity to perfect the routine exists in our learning programs. I then pivot to highlight that some aspects of the program exist to practice and learn from situations that they may encounter infrequently that may have high stakes for the patient.

So, in summary, I believe the relationship between faculty members and participants of simulation-based education programs is multi-factorial and demands attention. Depending on the learners and the topics of the program, the elements that serve as the underpinning of the relationship may range from few to many, and moderate to significant in complexity.

In my simulation work providing clinical education that involves practicing physicians as participants, I pay close attention to the five elements described above throughout the design as well as the conducting of the learning encounters.

I invite you to reflect upon your approach to the development and maintenance of the relationship between your faculty and participants of your simulation efforts.

 

 

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