May 24, 2024By Erin Carn Bennett

How to Make Healthcare Simulation an Emotional Experience

Clinical simulation is an incredibly powerful learning modality. One or more positive healthcare simulation learning experiences can be transformational across a career lifetime for healthcare workers. A significant element to promote positivity is the transition of clinical simulation participants through processing a range of emotions. As a skilled faculty member in clinical simulation, the ability to harness these emotions in the experience is to capitalize and make the most out of the educational experience for clinical simulation participants. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, MSN, RN, will explore the concept of clinical simulation as an emotional experience for the participants as an educational vessel for alterations and improvements in clinical practice and teamwork.

Understand and Allow All Emotions of Participants

Participants in clinical simulation can arrive at the clinical simulation scenario in various moods and mental states. As faculty members and debriefers in clinical simulation, there needs to be an allowance for participants in clinical simulation to arrive in any mental state and to be given space and time just to feel their feelings. As with clinical practice, some people are at work with a variety of external and/or internal stressors that can affect their performance. Clinical simulation allows participants to reflect on these emotions, make sense of them, and process them in a psychologically safe manner.

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Knowledge and understanding of emotional intelligence will assist clinical simulation faculty and debriefers to guide healthcare simulation participants to maximize the experience. The opportunity to reflect on clinical practice and why actions have occurred in the environment on the day can be incredibly powerful to enable participants to alter their practice and improve patient outcomes in their clinical practice. Healthcare simulation has the ability to place clinical simulation participants on the steep edge of their learning curve, which can bring emotions to the forefront, depending on cumulative stress levels and external stressors. Clinical simulation faculty can recognize distressed or rattled participants and employ strategies to allow space for these participants to feel these emotions fully.

Despite Best Intentions, Outcomes Are Not Always Perfect

An effective, expertly guided debrief will allow clinical simulation participants to move through these emotions and make sense of them. There will be times when this process does not occur due to many factors, which means clinical simulation faculty should also have a process to follow to ensure the psychological safety of clinical simulation participants to the best of their ability. This care of participants to feel their feelings and process them in due course paired with post clinical simulation support means there is more likely that the clinical simulation participant will return to further healthcare simulation-based education and also maintain trust within faculty and debrief teams. As an organization, consider what the process will be for the management of a distressed clinical simulation participant. This will be very individualized to the organization and the situation. Emotional intelligence, confidentiality, and trust among faculty and clinical simulation participants are vital.

Accept Individuals Where They Are as Adult Learners

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As educators, we want to make the clinical simulation a high-quality, comfortable, and wonderful experience for all who attend. In healthcare simulation, there needs to be comfort and discomfort in the clinical simulation debrief circle. Meet clinical simulation adult learners where they are in the environment after their healthcare simulation scenario. The clinical simulation participants are entitled to feel what is felt for them as individuals without any judgment from the clinical simulation faculty. The comfort of uncomfortable emotions and discomfort is vital to the success of debriefing. Examples of discomfort in debriefing include closed-off body language, tense facial expressions, and disappointment within the feelings phase of debriefing.

These should all be cues to the clinical simulation debriefer to allow these emotions to be expressed and explored by these individuals with respect, calmness, and kindness. Often, a range of emotions can be managed in a clinical simulation debrief. Some participants may be very disappointed with their individual performance, but others may be elated and incredibly happy with their particular performance. The complete acceptance of these emotions as a clinical simulation debriefer is powerful. The reflection time to air all these emotions and hear different viewpoints from the experience is incredibly powerful for teams to navigate together.

View the LEARN CE/CME Platform Webinar Debriefing Psychologically Stressful Simulations: A Different Perspective to learn more!

Take The Lessons to a Broader Sense to Ignite Change

With an appropriate level of psychological safety woven into a clinical simulation debrief, clinical simulation participants can move through their emotions and process their experiences. As adult learners from this emotional and reflective experience from within a debrief these emotions can be utilized to ignite change within themselves and also within their teams. However, there should always be a broad lens applied on any safety threats identified within the clinical simulation in this clinical care space. Any safety issues should be reported on to improve patient care and also staff wellbeing.

The ability to share these findings with clinical simulation participants that their experience is able to create culture and environment alterations to improve patient safety can make the experience even more valuable. Any safety threats identified from clinical simulation should be documented on formal organization risk report systems to ensure follow up by the local area. Clinical simulation participants’ identities should remain protected and anonymous to reinforce trust and psychological safety with the clinical simulation team.

This article has explored healthcare simulation scenarios and debriefing as an emotional experience.

There is a requirement for clinical simulation faculty members to be comfortable in addressing the presence of discomfort and uncomfortable emotions that may arise in the clinical simulation debrief environment. In the healthcare simulation debriefing circle, a wide variety of participant’s emotions can be present. There needs to be space for all these emotions to be expressed and processed without judgment from the clinical simulation faculty. In a broader sense, once emotions are finalized or processed, there may be times that require follow-up to gain closure for clinical simulation participants. The allowance of emotions and the ability to handle their processing allows the clinical simulation to be incredibly transformative for those able to attend.

Learn More About Understanding Deep Cognitive Learning in Medical Simulation!

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