Covid-19 has changed the course of most of our lives and affecting every sphere of society. Education business and lifestyles have been shrouded with uncertainty. Effective solutions in education and learning that keep us moving forward are greatly sought after during this time of social distancing and stringent safety measures.
One such solution is distance learning. And thanks to better technology and connectivity, it’s becoming a mainstream solution for education and training across verticals.
Since healthcare is one of the most needed and one of the most knowledge-heavy, learning and skill development cannot be put on hold.
In the wake of the pandemic, training healthcare personnel and upskilling those working at medical institutions plays a vital role in helping win the war against the virus.
Healthcare facilities undergo several pre-emptive training sessions such as:
The option to conduct such training online saves time and keeps more people safe and able to care for others.
Traditionally healthcare education has been dominated by in-person, classroom settings – that is until the pandemic hit and students could not attend physical classes as a safety measure. The pandemic has been the “launch” for online learning to become the primary aid to traditional teaching.
Dr. Amjad from the University of Jordan expressed at the World Economic Forum that online learning can in fact go hand in hand with traditional classroom training to enhance learning interactively.
Research has shown a number of non-didactic teaching methods that yield excellent learning outcomes (Merriman, Stayt PhD, & Ricketts, 2014), (Maddry, 2014). (De Gagne, et al., 2019)
Many medical, nursing, paramedical, pharmacy, research and development students have recently entered the frontlines with little hands-on experience in working in clinical surroundings.
What they need is a quick and effective method to bring them up to speed in rendering high quality medical care safely.
“Simulation is simply a representation of a real-life phenomenon, in a way that conveys experiential knowledge to a learner”. Simulation captures a learner’s attention immediately, by placing him/her in a life-like setting online to learn, explore, experiment, make mistakes and learn the rewards of doing-it-right!
To err is human! But, in order to improve healthcare quality, ‘human error’ must be minimized. Simulation has been considered as one of the top techniques to improve quality of healthcare (proposed by Dr David Gaba – one of the fathers of simulation in healthcare) (Rider & Schertzer, 2020).
In the real world, the work environment comprises of a hospital setting with real patients. When learners act in this environment, they get real results with no room for error. This is the basis for medical apprenticeships.
On the other hand, simulated environments are built using mathematical models that are programmed to follow established laws and principles. When learners act in the simulated environment, the program calculates the outcome and virtual results are obtained (Formaggia, Quarteroni, & Veneziani, 2010) (Al-Elq, 2010).
Application of knowledge is what sets medical students apart from a scholarly layman. Using simulation training to augment distance learning provides learners with virtual hands-on experience.
A new resident can take up scenario-based simulations such as treating a patient suffering from cardiac arrhythmias from the emergency room till the patient has been stabilized. Real-life details such as: patients experiencing fainting spells, chest pain or dizziness; medical device readings such as the pulse, breathing, consciousness; and administering life-saving medications, under varying circumstances are experienced. Each action and response from the learner is recorded and the outcome is provided at the end of the session. Modules can be re-run, without risks, to train learners until they are confident and achieve optimum outcomes in clinical settings.
Practicing physicians, surgeons, anaesthesiologists, nurses, or physician’s assistants are able to earn CME hours or credits that contribute toward maintaining their professional licenses, by undergoing simulation training.
Many studies such the one published by Thielen and his colleagues from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children Edinburgh, UK, titled “Regular in situ simulation training of paediatric medical emergency team improves hospital response to deteriorating patients” (Theilen U, 2013) have shown that regular – weekly, monthly or quarterly training has yielded better patient outcomes. This is because simulation training boosts long term memory and improves critical decision making such as assessment, correct diagnosis, and treatment by healthcare workers.
Laboratory testing manually consumes resources, space, and specialized equipment, which could otherwise be used for regular medical testing in the course of treating patients. Simulating a laboratory setting enables students to perform laboratory tests accurately, safely and as many times as they need to. Lab test results are also obtained much quicker than in real life.
Medical representatives employed by pharmaceutical manufacturers can undergo sales training using simulation modules. Reps can interact with simulated characters and learn how to implement sales strategies. Clinical simulations that give reps a look at what the physician and patient have to face will give the representative a better understanding of the medical device or medicine that is being promoted (MacAdams, 2020).
Many leading educational institutions have already begun adopting simulation learning as a valuable tool. Once the pandemic has been put behind us, pairing traditional classroom learning with simulation training can (Al-Elq, 2010):
E-Learning and Simulation can thus positively impact the quality of healthcare itself by enabling healthcare professionals to perfect their technical and non-technical skills throughout their practice.