June 4, 2024By Erin Carn Bennett

How to Create a Seasonal Curriculum Plan for Healthcare Simulation

A healthcare simulation curriculum can be overwhelming to manage succinctly and effectively. However, a well-considered and thought out healthcare simulation curriculum is essential to the clinical simulation participant who gains the most from their clinical simulation-based education experience. There is merit and worth in the effort to plan a highly effective seasonally focused clinical simulation annual curriculum. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, RN, MSN, will give insight and ideas on how to best map out a seasonal healthcare simulation curriculum that is heavily participant and organizationally focused.

Consider Known Patient Presentations Based on Seasons

In the local area of the healthcare simulation center, consider what patient presentations happen each year, when they occur, and in what season. This may sound like a simplistic viewpoint, but often, there can be a rush to perform clinical simulation scenarios, which can have a missed opportunity to be intentional at the time. Document down months of the year and regular clinical presentations for each clinical area where the clinical simulation scenarios or courses will be run.

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From the surveyed base of current clinical simulation performed as well as projected needs, a core curriculum and beyond can be built. Also, consider if assistance is given to international contacts on seasonal curriculum design, and the language of seasons and months experienced will differ from country to country. Educational requirements will differ from country to country, even within countries and states.

Educational requirements based on location for clinical simulation programs can differ due to seasonal changes and temperatures and other complex factors such as the socioeconomic status of people who live in that area. One clinical simulation curriculum can be incredibly effective and succinct for one area and irrelevant for another. Also, presentations can change over time, and clinicals simulation curriculums should be constantly reviewed and improved based on current clinical demands.

There needs to be careful consideration to plan for clinical simulations that relate to peak winter presentations especially when the height of these presentations will occur. For example, by the time winter peaks hit, the time for the clinical simulation scenario to go ahead may have passed due to the increased need for clinical care for patients. Consider that in times of high staff sickness and increased clinical demands, healthcare simulation may not be able to proceed.

Careful planning needs to occur so that clinical staff have ample opportunity to attend clinical simulation scenarios and also be able to reflect and alter their practice before the commencement of winter peak clinical demands. A combination of pre-planned clinical simulation scenarios during protected education time and clinical simulation that can occur opportunistically in a lull of clinical demand is useful to increase the likeliness of staff’s ability to attend clinical simulation scenarios.

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Winter Peak Presentation Clinical Simulation Plan Needs to Start Early

A lot of planning is required for staff education to diagnose and treat winter peak presentations. Therefore, clinical simulation-based education preparation should start several months before winter, ideally in the summer period before this time. Ensure that by mid-autumn/fall season, winter preparation clinical simulation scenarios have been completed for clinical staff.

If the opportunity to provide clinical simulation for winter preparedness has passed, consider other available virtual clinical simulation options if this resource is an option for the clinical simulation program. Ideally, clinical staff should be prepared for regular winter illness presentations, particularly with plenty of time to spare. When winter preparation clinical simulation has occurred early, staff feel more prepared and able to care for their patients to a high standard of clinical care in increased clinical demands for services.

As a clinical simulation program, know what season will be harder to complete scenarios in and complete planning work in the downtime season for the clinical simulation program. Ensure that this time of less clinical simulation scenario delivery time is used effectively as a program. This process may include reviewing the scenario bank and how scenarios are stored, writing new scenarios, and focusing on clinical simulation-based education via other modalities, such as technology-driven clinical simulations taught online or via a podcast recording.

Other Curriculum Considerations Other Than Winter Presentations

Also, consider other seasonal impacts, such as trauma and accidents in the summer months. This may include increased summer presentations such as drownings or other water sports and activities events. Allow ample time for clinical simulation scenarios to be completed by staff. Schedule these scenarios before the commencement of summer and holidays within the summer season, where an increase in these presentations is likely to occur.

Consideration should also be given to train with clinical simulation for low-frequency yet high-stakes events. An example of this would be a VF arrest in the pediatric population. Clinical simulation is the perfect educational modality to practice and refine skills for such high-stakes events that rarely happen within clinical practice. Get to know the learner population and their needs and plan accordingly so that there is preparation for such events. As clinical simulation educators, there is a great opportunity to prepare clinical simulation participants for incredibly impactful clinical practice outcomes on skills where there is so much at stake yet limited ability to hone clinical skills.

This article has explored the concept of planning a seasonal curriculum for a healthcare simulation program despite the clinical area in question or location. The importance of winter planning early has been discussed alongside how to do this. This is especially true when considering operational needs of running a medical simulation program, including access to rooms, equipment and supplies. Other seasonal trauma presentations within the summer months have also been discussed to work into seasonal clinical simulation curriculum planning.

Finally, high-stakes yet low-frequency events have been highlighted to incorporate into a healthcare simulation program curriculum. Healthcare simulation can be incredibly impactful on participants’ clinical practice and patient outcomes. Seasonal plans and consideration of curriculum can take a healthcare simulation program to the next level.

Learn More About How to Conduct an Annual Review of Your Simulation Program!

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