November 1, 2019By Lance Baily

Evaluating Clinical Simulations in Medical Education

Recently on the Society for Technical Communication’s Instructional Design and Learning’s Special Interest Group, Seneca College student Serena Zaccagnini explored how we “Evaluate Clinical Simulations in Medical Education”, where she notes that “the current model of medical training has been in use for at least a hundred years, but a developing movement for patient safety has forced institutes to revise the medical education system”. Today we share some excerpts of her article and share more resources for evaluating the effectiveness of medical simulation:

Simulations in medical training are a realistic cross-disciplinary method of training and feedback. In simulation-based learning learners can repeatedly practice and review tasks in lifelike circumstances using physical or virtual reality models to identify and understand the factors that affect systems and the problems that can arise. Healthcare Simulation based medical education (SMBE) allows students the chance to refine their skills in a safe and controlled environment where they can increase their skills and reduce their margins of error. SMBE creates a safe and controlled environment that exposes trainees to dangerous conditions.

Medical education is one of many disciplines experiencing a significant increase in the use of simulation technology for teaching and assessment. From the military and aviation industries training pilots on flight simulators to construction workers training on virtual cranes, simulation-based education has seen a boom in trust and satisfaction.


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The shift to virtual education for medicine follows the trends of society. Many medical students and practitioners have adapted their methods to better fit the 21st century:

  • Many medical students view lectures online or listen via podcasts.
  • Residents consult information stored in Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to make patient management more efficient.
  • Practitioners can receive continuing education credits by attending teleconferences.

Primary concerns regarding simulation use in medicine involve cost, efficiency and simulation quality.

  • Cost: The best medical simulations are available at considerable costs. Machines require maintenance and updating, which continually adds to the initial purchase price.
  • Efficiency: Incorporating time into current medical curriculums is problematic and would require the medical curriculum to be updated. Dedicated and exclusive resources are seldom available. For simulations, an instructor-to-learner ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 is ideal, where the current ratio is between 1:10 and 1:15.
  • Simulation Quality: Human systems are complicated and varied, thus models and instruments can never completely mimic each iteration. Poorly designed simulations can inhibit learning, such as causing students to neglect checking for physical signs because they are absent in the simulation. Participants will naturally approach simulations differently than they would real life. Students will either be hypervigilant or negligent.

The current model of medical education has changed little over the last hundred years, but an increase in demand for experienced doctors has pushed educational institutions to reconsider the system. Simulation on its own cannot guarantee learning, but it is a game-changer.

The shift toward heavy technology use is unavoidable; medical professionals, as other professions, have started to rely on computer- and cloud-based materials to improve their patient care. What remains to be seen is if they will fully accept this paradigm shift and trust clinical simulation to train the next generation of doctors.


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Read Serena’s Full Article Here!

About the and the Society for Technical Communication & IDL SIG

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is the world’s largest and oldest professional association dedicated to the advancement of the field of technical communication. The Society’s members span the field of the technical communication profession from students and academics to practitioners and managers. Our members represent every industry segment and many countries around the globe.

The Instructional Design and Learning’s Special Interest Group (IDL SIG) mission is to help STC members identify and develop knowledge and practical skills for designing, developing, and implementing technical instruction in electronic and traditional classroom settings. The SIG strives to promote sound design practices and provide information and education about instructional theory and research.

Additional Reading: “How to Evaluate Effectiveness of Clinical Simulation“: This article covers Audiovisual recording debriefing systems for annotation, the concept of the Japanese theory of small improvements called Kaizen, and a Simulation Effectiveness Tool for the evaluation of the simulated clinical experiences.


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