June 18, 2020By Lance Baily

An Introduction to Developing Clinical Simulation Research

Learning from Comprehensive Healthcare Simulation: Operations, Technology, and Innovative Practice, today we examine the process of creating medical simulation research with a powerful introduction from both a Medical Doctor and a Simulation Technology Specialist. The Research Process chapter, by Dr. Stormy Monks, Department of Emergency Medicine at TTUHSC El Paso and Former SimGHOSTS Board Member and Sim Tech Rachel Bailey, looks at how to approach, design, develop, manage, and publish research within the scope of healthcare simulation. From our understanding, Rachel was the first Sim Tech to ever publish research in simulation in healthcare — so she provides a unique perspective here for those looking to perform studies from a technical background!

There are two main approaches to conducting research. The approach taken is typically decided by the type of research question the researcher is asking. The study design portion/roadmap of the research process is based on the approach chosen. The most common approach is the quantitative, often called empirical or traditional, approach. This approach aims at answering questions about relation- ships among variables that are measurable. The quantitative approach uses the scientific method and relies on numerical evidence to answer study questions.

The qualitative or interpretive approach is known as the approach used to answer questions of phenomena. Specifically, this approach focuses on describing and/or explaining concepts by using words or word themes. This approach is not commonly used in medical/health simulation research, but it is widely used in social sciences research. There is a combination of these two approaches called a mixed methods approach. An example of this approach would be using participant surveys (quantitative) in combination with participant interviews (qualitative) to answer a research question.


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There are standards that must be met in order to consider a project/study “good” research. These include, but are not limited to, conducting a study based on previous work, based on a theoretical framework, having the study be objective and unbiased, and designing the study to answer a specific question. Prior to starting the design process of one’s research study, the researcher must become familiar with existing literature related to the study. For example, if a research team wants to do a translational research project showing how central line deliberate practice affects central line placement infection rates in the hospital, the first step would be to review past literature.

It could be that this study has already been done in other hospitals and those studies can provide the information needed, or they can be improved upon. Additionally, it is imperative that research be based on an exist- ing theory or model to enhance validity; researchers refer to this as a theoretical framework. There are several health education and adult learning theories that are applicable to simulation. As simulation research increases, there are new simulation theories being developed.

The IRB process is similar across institutions due to the fact that all IRBs must comply with federal regulations. Most academic institutions have their own IRB committee, but it is possible to apply to an outside IRB if the institution that one is associated with does not have one. In order to initiate a formal IRB research review, the researcher must first be trained in human subject research. There are different trainings that will be required by each institution; however, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program – Human Subjects Research course is commonly used across institutions. This course provides a researcher with the imperative knowledge one needs to conduct human subject research. In addition, one can take supplemental courses to further one’s knowledge fund.

After the research data collection has been done, the art of writing a manuscript begins. Much of the manuscript has already been written in the protocol submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process. A research manuscript is divided into sections. Each section plays an important role to tell the complete story of the research process. Remember to use the “CONSORT” checklist for your study design which includes:


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  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Background
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

Conducting research is a time-consuming and effort-intensive endeavor. Successful researchers are often trained in research methods and techniques specific to their field of study. However, novice researchers can learn from research mentors and eventually become an independent researcher. It is imperative to remember that research is not a single event or activity; as mentioned several times in this chapter, it is a process.

Begin the research journey by attending research presentations, reading research manuscripts, familiarizing oneself with research methods and techniques, finding a research mentor, and developing research questions. These activities will assist not only with the understanding of the research process but with the uncovering of one’s part in research. Chapter 16 will address the specific role of a healthcare simulation technology specialist in research.

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More Key Take Aways From Latest Simulation Operations Book Include:

  • Practical guide helps prepare professionals for the broad scope of simulation in healthcare
  • Defines the domains of medical simulation operations
  • Focuses on the development of the healthcare simulation technology specialist
  • Written and edited by leaders in the field of clinical simulation

Written and edited by leaders in the field, Comprehensive Healthcare Simulation: Operations, Technology, and Innovative Practice is optimized for a variety of learners, including healthcare educators, simulation directors, as well as those looking to pursue a career in simulation operations as healthcare simulation technology specialists. Grab your copy today through our affiliate links:

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