It wasn’t too long ago that a popular mantra for learning in health care was “see one, do one, teach one,” and usually the learning was on a real patient. Today, clinicians don’t learn skills on real patients.
So, how do they learn? The answer lies in simulation — mannequins, trained actors and virtual reality are used to train clinicians on everything from technical skills, to communication, to interprofessional teamwork.
Health care simulation is such a crucial part of education that it even has its own week. This is the second year that hospitals and professional schools around the world will celebrate Healthcare Simulation Week Sept. 17 through 21.
Christine Park is the director of the UIC College of Medicine’s Dr. Allan L. and Mary L. Graham Clinical Performance Center — also known as the simulation lab. She is the immediate past president of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, which launched the commemorative week last year.
“What we wanted to do with Healthcare Simulation Week was to celebrate the people involved in simulation, and raise public awareness of simulation and how it is used in health care,” Park said.
“In the last 15 or so years, health care simulation has taken a leading role in advancing innovative education, and has become a full-fledged profession with its own guidelines and standards,” she said.
In fact, Park has spearheaded the development of a unifying, global code of ethics for health care simulationists as part of an international effort of many simulation leaders. She expects the guidelines will be published next year.
The Clinical Performance Center is home to a treasure chest of technology — ranging from adult and baby mannequins, and isolated arms and torsos to virtual reality and augmented reality trainers. The full-body mannequins have heart sounds and pulses, and they can talk, breathe and even blink. They are connected to monitors that provide vital signs, including heart rate and blood pressure. On any given day, the “patient” can have a heart attack, be a trauma victim, or experience a range of crises that challenge the learners clinical, technical and teamwork skills. The Performance Center is also where actors, known as standardized patients, help learners explore and develop effective communication skills.
Beyond providing a safe environment for students — and even seasoned professionals — to hone their skills, simulation can be used as way to answer research questions. Park has conducted research using simulation to determine whether the order of teaching clinical skills has an impact on how learners make clinical decisions.
“A simple variable such as teaching order does have an impact on how learners decide which techniques to use in treating patients,” Park said. “In our study, we looked at respiratory distress and which techniques students used — or didn’t — to manage the situation. Knowing that variables like the order of teaching affects decision making and therefore, patient outcomes, we have a duty to tailor our education in such a way that it could lead to better patient outcomes down the road.”
Park and her colleagues at the center are looking forward to moving into a new space — two floors of the UI Health Mile Square Health Center at the corner of Wood and Roosevelt roads — in 2019.
“The center is working at full capacity with growing demand, and the space is small, not to mention much of it is windowless,” Park said. “We will be able to expand at Mile Square to accommodate demand for more programs and research, and we will have space set aside for virtual and augmented reality-based training as well.”