With the advances made in simulation technology over the past two decades, the use of simulation training in the health care industry has increased dramatically. In the interests of patient safety, though, it is vitally important that more medical educational institutions and health care facilities institute an even wider variety of medical simulation training programs.
Modern simulation training programs were first developed to meet the training needs of personnel in complex, high-risk areas such as military combat, flight training, and nuclear power production. Advanced simulation training has been used successfully in aviation and in military training exercises for years, because simulation is most valuable as a training tool when personnel are learning and practicing risky, expensive and dynamic processes (such as flight or combat). Despite the hazardous nature of activities related to these industries, failure rates of personnel in these high-risk situations have remained remarkably low. Proponents of simulation training believe that it is the reason for such high levels of success in avoiding negative outcomes in these industries.
Simulation Training in Health Care
Recognizing that health care is also a complex and high-risk industry, health education professionals have adopted more and more elements of simulation for medical skill enhancement. Advanced digital health technologies have now become available for training doctors, nurses, EMTs and other medical staff as well. Medical schools and training hospitals can use highly realistic simulations of patients and medical environments to improve training and the practice of high-risk medical procedures that can negatively impact patient outcomes if performed incorrectly on real-life patients.
The amount of knowledge required to provide safe patient care in today’s health care settings requires more in-depth training than traditional didactic teaching can deliver. Because didactic training relies primarily on linguistic intelligence and rote memorization, procedural skills and the ability to react in an emergency situation are not sufficiently improved by this traditional education system. In contrast, comprehensive simulated training programs are learner-centered, allow students to utilize multiple intelligences, and give students the opportunity to physically practice complex tasks repeatedly without the fear of patient harm.
Improving Patient Safety
A primary cause of medical error is “failed systems and procedures” in the actual practice of medicine. Levels of patient safety are directly related to human skill performance in the work environment, so the more opportunities medical staff have to practice and repeat a skill before needing it with a real patient, the fewer negative patient outcomes will occur. With this in mind, hospitals and medical training institutions should look toward the use of medical simulation as the most effective training method for reducing the risk of preventable harm due to medical error.
Simulation training is essential to improving patient safety. Computer controlled simulation technology makes it possible for medical students to learn, practice and repeat complicated procedures to the point of mastery, while attaining automaticity in performing basic medical procedures. When practicing with medical simulators, students and providers are free to make and correct mistakes that could cause injury if they occurred when working with real patients. Simulation as a method of training can greatly improve the education of medical personnel, and will increase patient safety at the same time.