May 21, 2024By Erin Carn Bennett

First Impressions: How to Design the First Clinical Simulation Experience

The first healthcare simulation experience for a clinical simulation participant is an impactful experience. The first clinical simulation experience is an experience that clinical simulation participants will carry into future clinical experiences. This may be due to either a positive or negative experience for the first clinical simulation participants experience. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, MSN, RN, will explore concepts to make the first clinical simulation a great one for participants.

Why the First-Time Healthcare Simulation Experience Matters So Much

For a clinical simulation participant, the transition into a clinical simulation experience can be a process of adjustment on many levels, such as mental, physical, and sensory. Allow time as a clinical simulation educator for clinical simulation participants to settle into the simulation experience. This process can be enhanced and made more psychologically safe through a number of strategic methods and well-considered plans.

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The initial phase of clinical simulation should not be rushed for clinical simulation participants. This phase is about settling into the clinical simulation experience and getting to know one another prior to the clinical simulation scenario via introductions to one another. As a clinical simulation educator, let participants know about the educator’s clinical background and any relevant clinical simulation experience.

Spend Quality Time and Effort on Introductions

Ask the clinical simulation participants questions in the initial and introductory phases that center around their previous clinical simulation experiences and anything to share as wished. When there is a person whose first clinical simulation experience is in the group on this particular day, congratulate the participant. Reassure this participant that care will be taken to provide clinical simulation in a psychologically safe manner, which is of great importance. Allow for space in this phase to spend time to answer any questions, establish a connection with participants, and start to build psychological safety nets.

Make allowance for healthcare simulation to be a vulnerable area by building psychological safety at every step of the clinical simulation experience. For the clinical simulation participant experiencing the first ever clinical simulation experience, place additional care and attention to their experience. Check-in with the participants regularly, notice any alterations in body language that demonstrate discomfort or distress, and respond accordingly.

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Demonstrate vulnerability as an educator and share about personalized first clinical simulation experiences. Normalize any bad experiences shared by clinical simulation participants from the past and acknowledge them. State out loud that this clinical simulation space is different and is a safe learning space. This can help foster a more psychologically safe learning environment for all learners especially those who have had bad experiences or are unsure as this is their first clinical simulation experience. Be sure to infuse psychological safety and emotional intelligence at every stage of the clinical simulation experience.

View the LEARN CE/CME Platform Webinar Psychological Safety in Healthcare Simulation: Why It Matters Most to learn more!

Many clinical simulation participants, particularly the inexperienced participants, will feel uncomfortable as there is a concern about their clinical experience being observed and reported on to management or senior staff. Before clinical simulation in the pre-brief phase, explicitly state the confidentiality agreement and what this means to the clinical simulation educator in the particular environment. Reassurance to clinical simulation participants early in their clinical simulation experiences that healthcare simulation is about the team, not the individual, can be hugely impactful. Take the pressure off the individual and let them know that the experience is for the overall team and not to judge them as individuals or their individual clinical skills.

A pre-brief will let the participants know how long the clinical simulation experience will take. As adult learners, this can be useful for the clinical simulation participant in their first clinical simulation scenario. Explicit confidentiality, psychological safety, and the rules for the clinical simulation scenario should also be stated. Rules for the clinical simulation experience should cover subjects such as what to use and not use, such as medications, equipment, and call bells.

A thorough opportunity to orientate to the clinical simulation manikin after a pre-brief and prior to the clinical simulation scenario is essential for the first-time clinical simulation participant. Ensure that the first-time clinical simulation participant gets hands-on with the manikin and is made aware of the features that the manikin has and does not have. Answer any questions about functionality and ensure the first-time clinical simulation participant feels ready to move into the scenario phase.

Prior to the clinical simulation scenario commencement, be sure to introduce all clinical simulation faculty roles, such as clinical simulation technician, clinical simulation scenario director, and debriefers. Ensure that the clinical simulation participants know where to direct any clinical questions during the scenario. This will ensure the first-time clinical simulation participant is aware of where to direct questions and help minimize confusion and distress around this. As a clinical simulation educator, explain how every step will occur and encourage questions at all steps of the clinical simulation scenario experience.

Be Clear in Transitions to Different Stages of Debrief

When the time comes, be clear in the transition to the debriefing phase. For the first-time clinical simulation participant, this can be a useful step. Engagement in the clinical simulation experience can be high by the time the scenario needs to close. The first-time clinical simulation participant may be invested and want to continue providing patient care. A clear transition into debriefing and the acknowledgment of this can be helpful for participants to make this pivot. A well considered and psychologically safe debrief will likely, in addition to the other concepts described above, result in an overall positive experience for the first-time clinical simulation participant.

The first-time clinical simulation participant is a vulnerable yet hugely impactful moment for learners in clinical simulation. This article has described the rationale for consideration to implement psychological safety for the first-time clinical simulation participant. Strategies such as introductions, prebrief, introduction to the manikin, and clear transitions between phases of clinical simulation can make all the difference to a first-time clinical simulation participant. The first-time clinical simulation participant is worth the effort. Hence, they can carry a positive experience as a first experience forward into a career where healthcare simulation remains an incredibly impactful and safe way to learn in many facets.

Learn More About Psychological Safety in Clinical Simulation!

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