Improved Simulations Central To Patient Health, Provider Confidence

With the development of new technology, doctors, hospitals, and first responders are facing an exciting new opportunity: the ability to use high-tech simulations to improve patient care. These new tools, including entire simulated hospital settings, offer practitioners the opportunity to close the education-practice gap in medical education, build provider confidence, and could potentially transform the way medicine is taught and practiced. Looking at a number of innovative, simulation-driven programs reveals just how they’re shifting healthcare training norms for the better.

Creating Clinically Realistic Settings

Johns Hopkins University has always provided highly regarded medical education, and one reason this is the case is that the university always seeks to be on the cutting edge. That’s why, as simulation technology became more advanced, the university decided that it wanted to provide students with a realistic environment in which to practice their skills – and the result was Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Hospital.

Equipped with realistic mannequins and functioning equipment, the Simulation Hospital is hard to distinguish from an actual hospital when viewed by the untrained eye. And most importantly, the students who pass through its doors feel better prepared to handle the stress of a real hospital environment when they move into their internships. Since the difference between practicing a medical procedure and actually performing it under high-stress, real-life circumstances is so great, creating a more realistic training environment is vital to student success.

Training Meets Feedback

Another major way in which simulation technology is changing medical practice is by making it easier for trainees to not only practice skills, but also to receive feedback on their progress. Simulators and simulated treatment spaces like hospital rooms can be connected to a video recording system, allowing students to review skills with their instructors and receive feedback. Programs like IPIVS’ VALT even work with medical mannequin software, making them ideal for integration and teaching in simulation environments.

Resources For Advancement

While students have long had regular opportunities to work with simulation technology, even if it was fairly rudimentary, after leaving the classroom, such opportunities can be scarce for practicing doctors. With recent advancements in medical technology, though, a growing number of practicing professionals have opportunities to hone their skills through simulations. In fact, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funds many simulation research programs as part of their safety funding. Past programs include pediatric resuscitation training for emergency department staff and simulation performance assessments for practicing physicians.

Simulation On The Go

Simulation-based training is steadily becoming the new norm for doctors and even some nurses, but one group of medical professionals that’s just beginning to benefit from such advancements are EMS. EMS personnel work under extreme and unpredictable circumstances, practicing medicine outside of the traditional hospital setting.

With this in mind, a growing number of EMS trainers are advocating for realistic simulation settings, such as in an ambulance or at an outside event. Just as doctors need to be prepared for the chaos of an emergency department or operating room, EMS personnel need to be ready to tackle the stressful, often improvisational nature of their work. Using simulations to practice these skills could improve patient outcomes before they even arrive at the hospital.

Simulation technology is sure to continue evolving over the next few years, bringing realistic training into even more classrooms and hospitals around the United States and across the globe. Though nothing is quite the same as working on a real patient, the practice scenarios come a little closer to matching those circumstances every day.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.