How Simulation-Based Learning is Revolutionizing Healthcare Education


How Simulation-Based Learning is Revolutionizing Healthcare Education

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Many often say that the best way to learn is by doing. This philosophy is becoming more commonplace as the practice of simulation-based learning becomes more popular in the world of education.

Because of consistent expansions in technology, simulation has evolved significantly as an educational tool since its roots in the 1700s. One of the biggest impacts that simulation has offered is to the field of healthcare education. With advantages for medical students, patients, and professionals, we will explore how educational simulation can benefit all parties within our healthcare system.

 

Defining Educational Simulation

What sets educational simulation apart from other methods is that it places students in situations where they have to solve real-world problems with hands-on methods. They must follow specific procedures to map out a solution and then carry out that solution efficiently and procedurally. 

Simulation-based learning requires a hands-on approach from educators as well. They are responsible for curating guided and safe learning environments. When students are performing simulations or doing an activity, instructors should be able to clearly evaluate students’ performances and how well they apply the skills they have learned during instruction.

Healthcare educators use simulation to teach medical students life-saving procedures that are crucial to any future career they seek. Plus, professionals will sometimes have their patients perform recovery practices through simulation as a way of tracking their progress. But how exactly did simulation become such a staple in medical education?

 

Use of Simulation in Health Education

Medical simulation-based education can be traced all the way back to the 1700s. Aspiring obstetricians in Europe were starting to learn concepts and procedures using forceps, a handheld tool that grasps objects in a way similar to kitchen tongs. Obstetric simulation allowed students to use these devices to leak blood and amniotic fluid and learn how to best handle issues relating to childbirth as a result. 

As technology would advance throughout the 1800s and 1900s, simulation grew more popular as an educational tool for healthcare and other hands-on fields. Once the Industrial Revolution swept the world, simulation was suddenly one of the most commonly implemented and standardized practices in healthcare education.

 

Benefits of Educational Simulation

With high rates of success, there are a plethora of advantages that simulated learning can offer to medical students, providers, and patients alike. The most obvious benefit of this learning style is that it expands students’ knowledge while allowing them to gain experience as well. 

Medical procedures require an intense amount of precision and attention to detail, so students benefit far less from simply learning about a procedure than they do by learning about it and actually practicing it in real life. Having a physical patient in front of them, whether fake or real, will help curate a realistic clinical experience and better prepare them to determine the proper course of action in situations they will face as real doctors and nurses. 

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Simulation-based education also allows for clearer, more robust procedures of data collection on students and medical patients. The instructors and supervisors that develop simulations are the ones who set the conditions and have full working knowledge of what is happening in each scenario. This makes it much easier to track the timing of certain decisions, the performance of certain skills, and other indicators of progress for whomever they are supervising.

These benefits of educational simulation make it easier for professionals to improve future simulations and ensure that students have all knowledge and experience necessary to safely enter the world as medical professionals. In that same vein, patients who have endured simulation-based recoveries can reenter the world more safely and avoid putting themselves at any further risk. 

 

 

Teach Basic but Necessary Skills with Low-Fidelity Simulations

Experts often break down the practical applications of healthcare simulation into two categories: low-fidelity and high-fidelity simulations. 

Low-fidelity simulations (LFSs) allow students and patients to emulate real procedures but on a smaller, more streamlined scale. LFS administrators eliminate variables that may detract from the participant’s overall understanding of a broader concept, and their overall goal is to connect acquired knowledge with concrete skills. 

For students, LFSs teach more about the skills themselves rather than the overarching situations that require the use of those skills. Students typically perform these simulations either on a computer or on a realistic human model. Examples of LFSs include teaching IV insertion with an artificial human arm, diagnosing possible illnesses using images of a human body and a checklist of symptoms, and the familiar use of CPR manikins to teach students how to administer chest compressions safely.

When dealing with patient recovery, LFSs most often come in the form of assistive devices. This allows patients to take on smaller tasks so they don’t overwhelm their bodies and slow the recovery process. Common low-fidelity simulations for medical patients include walkers and crutches, which help simulate walking functionally, as well as multisensory technology that heightens the abilities of the five senses.

Low-fidelity simulations (LFSs) allow students and patients to emulate real procedures but on a smaller, more streamlined scale. LFS administrators eliminate variables that may detract from the participant’s overall understanding of a broader concept, and their overall goal is to connect acquired knowledge with concrete skills. 

For students, LFSs teach more about the skills themselves rather than the overarching situations that require the use of those skills. Students typically perform these simulations either on a computer or on a realistic human model. Examples of LFSs include teaching IV insertion with an artificial human arm, diagnosing possible illnesses using images of a human body and a checklist of symptoms, and the familiar use of CPR manikins to teach students how to administer chest compressions safely.

When dealing with patient recovery, LFSs most often come in the form of assistive devices. This allows patients to take on smaller tasks so they don’t overwhelm their bodies and slow the recovery process. Common low-fidelity simulations for medical patients include walkers and crutches, which help simulate walking functionally, as well as multisensory technology that heightens the abilities of the five senses.

 

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Focus More Intensively on Realistic Situations with High-Fidelity Simulations

Usually following low-fidelity simulations, high-fidelity simulations (HFSs) provide an even more realistic way for students and patients to practice real-world medical scenarios. Professionals usually take the environmental variables that they mute in LFSs and intentionally implement them throughout HFSs to challenge the participant to handle a more complex situation. 

HFSs will force students to determine what they would do in a situation where a LFS like CPR administration or IV insertion is subject to a sudden change in environment, such as an alarm or distractions from other humans. They also include more complicated, precise procedures, such as using robotic prosthetics and using animal skin to practice incisions. 

For medical patients, HFSs are the final step in gradually lowering the need for medical assistance in day-to-day life. Patients usually start these simulations once they are seeing the impacted areas of their body act more functionally. Plus, HFSs are a great way to demonstrate to patients how their impairment will impact other physical activities in their life that may not seem related to the injury.

One of the most common examples of HFSs for patients is a driving simulator, which can provide an incredibly realistic way for patients to practice driving so that they can get back on the road as safely as possible after recovery. Other high-fidelity patient simulations include power wheelchairs and specialized cooking equipment that they can practice with during their rehabilitation period to strengthen weakened mobility and cognition skills. 

Ultimately, with endless possibilities for artificial intelligence (AI) and heightened data collection methods, we will see these practices continue to become more commonplace in educational and rehabilitation spaces. As technology evolves and knowledge about the effectiveness of educational simulation expands, simulation-based learning will revolutionize healthcare as we know it for generations to come.


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