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Planning simulation activities

As with all learning activities, it is vital to plan the learning carefully with clear aims and learning outcomes. However, because of the specific requirements of simulation, additional activities need to be undertaken if it is to work well.

The simulation scenario

Key to successful simulation is the scenario that is designed and delivered. Depending on the needs, level and number of learners (and available facilities and faculty), a suitable scenario needs to be devised. This should be tested or piloted to make sure that the timing, learning outcomes and participants’ and others’ roles work in practice.

A simple scenario might be that learners have to assume that a whole body manikin is an elderly patient requiring sitting up in bed, making comfortable and then taking admission information. Another might be a simulated patient (actor) to whom the learner has to break bad news. More complex scenarios might vary in the complexity of the ‘patient’s’ (or family’s) needs/condition; a scenario with two or more parts where the condition deteriorates, new information is provided or might involve more people taking different roles, to very complex scenarios involving whole teams, and/or high fidelity simulators and confederates (actors) who might play the part of patients, family members, other professionals, health service managers, etc.

The course/session

Both participants and faculty need to be familiar with the setting and equipment being used before embarking on the scenario. This may involve a pre-briefing or training and sending out materials or information prior to the event.

Eppich, O’Connor and Lanty (2013) suggest the following needs to be planned in advance and attended to throughout the course or session:

  • Foster informal discussion and conversations
  • Introductions and ice-breakers
  • Use first names (both faculty and participants) for the duration of the session to break down hierarchy
  • Learn people’s names (labels may be useful)
  • Give overview of the session/course
  • Provide clear ground rules about process and expectations
  • Foster psychological safety
  • Orientate to the simulation environment and equipment (location of equipment, manikin, roles of participants, rules of engagement)
  • Carry out briefing to the scenario, clarify everyone’s roles (including observers), assumptions, clinical knowledge
  • Carry out simulation
  • Feedback and debrief
  • Any follow-up activities/materials

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