January 2, 2024By Erin Carn Bennett

Get Back to The Basics of Clinical Simulation

As healthcare simulation educators, there is often pressure to deliver complex clinical simulations with entire teams more regularly than can be completed due to often increased clinical demands. However, as healthcare workers regularly face challenges around staff retention, staff shortages, and increased staff burnout, there is a constant balance to meet educational needs versus clinical demands. After the global pandemic where healthcare education has been canceled on a regular basis, clinical staff are feeling the effects of these cancellations across the globe now more than ever. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, MSN, RN, will explore the need to get back to the basics of clinical education and follow a proposed framework in healthcare simulation.

High Staff Attrition: How Clinical Simulation Can Help

Clinical staff in healthcare continue to work in increasingly challenging work environments with a significant loss of clinical staff with seniority, knowledge, and wisdom from the workforce. The impact of this chasm in expertise may be felt for many years to come. Since a lot of clinical simulation education has been canceled worldwide, many clinical staff in healthcare feel they need more preparation for their clinical roles. They are forced to undertake more senior positions with a lack of preparation due to staff shortfalls. This lack of education and preparation can impact patient safety and the quality of clinical care.

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As the rebuild and build-up process of clinical expertise occurs for many healthcare institutions, this is a prime position for clinical simulation programs to be able to take action. This prime position of clinical simulation programs to offer to upskill clinical staff in a timely and effective manner could assist to make staff feel more confident in their clinical roles in the future after a number of challenged years for the healthcare workforce. To give staff the protected time to attend clinical simulation, even if only in thirty-minute time segments, will assist to make clinical staff feel more valued with respect to their education and as an individual.

What to Focus On with Clinical Simulation-Based Education

For many areas across the globe, there has been a huge shortfall in the education of clinical healthcare staff that has been able to be delivered for the reasons described above. Staff are often learning on the job, cannot pause and reflect on their clinical practice, and make errors in safe spaces such as clinical simulation. Similarly, staff may have different clinical practice standards as workforces are often relatively junior skill mix heavy, and skills need to be honed and perfected in safe, educational spaces such as clinical simulation.

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Why Clinical Simulation Can Assist with Staff Retention

The global pandemic and now staff shortages throughout the globe have had an incredibly large impact on the workload of clinical healthcare staff. Management and educators have had incredibly difficult times to try and manage clinical demands and be able to continue with any education for staff. At times, even core courses such as CPR have been paused or stopped. The large number of junior and new staff has impacted clinical skills and knowledge. With the challenges described above, as well as the known decline in the mental health of healthcare professionals and rising levels of burnout, being valued as a healthcare worker doesn’t find much of a space as an individual. Clinical simulation is a safe space for staff to make errors and to reflect and learn for next time. Muscle memory by in situ education via clinical simulation allows participants to practice until the skills feel right to them.

Time to be educated in clinical simulation, which is psychologically safe, makes clinical staff feel like they matter and are more than a number on the clinical roster. Staff like to know that their progression, which is supported by high-quality education is prioritized by the institution that they are employed by. To be educated, supported, and upskilled for clinical practice with clinical simulation matters to employees and also makes patients feel safe in the knowledge that those who provide clinical care do so to a high standard.

Formulate a Clinical Simulation Education Framework that Works

Unfortunately, staff level challenges persist in the clinical healthcare realm and may not be solved for some time. However, staff must still be educated, especially as healthcare simulation educators. Some craftiness is required to yield results. Consider what clinical simulation must take priority. Usually, airway and compression-based CPR education are at the top of the list. Common emergencies for individualized clinical specialties should be considered and woven into clinical simulation frameworks.

Other more generalized emergencies generally found on local emergency algorithm guides for staff will also demonstrate expectations of what staff should potentially come into contact with. Try to plan clinical simulation sessions that are thirty minutes or even less within clinical spaces. Hold these regularly so staff know when the clinical simulation is on and will become more comfortable and trust in clinical simulation as a meaningful educational tool. Plan for longer clinical simulation sessions throughout the year as much as possible with management in support as much as possible.

This article has explored the importance to reconsider the process to get back to basic topics and curriculum of clinical healthcare simulation. There has been an exploration of the current status of clinical simulation-based education and how this relates to high staff attrition in the incredibly challenged post-pandemic workplace. This has been compared to how valued staff feel with a lack of education able to proceed due to workforce challenges.

Despite global challenges, clinical simulation has never been more important to upskill staff safely and improve clinical care and confidence. The hope is that this article has planted some seeds to consider the importance of clinical simulation-based education in the phase to rebuild the health workforce’s clinical skill base.

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