Simulation Techniques in Healthcare HR

“Simulation is a technique—not a technology—to replace or amplify real experiences with guided experiences that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive manner” ~ David Gaba, MD (2004)

In healthcare, there are many reasons for incorporating simulation techniques into our HR practices. Pre-employment screening through assessment centers allow us to evaluate potential candidate skills as well as set the expectations of our candidates. Combining this with area specific onboarding training can significantly reduce our large turnover problem in healthcare. Routine training of staff reduces cognitive decay that naturally occurs with rarely utilized skills as well as covers annual compliance needs. The “hands on” nature of simulation based active learning opportunities continue to be an excellent draw for staff development.

Here are four examples of simulation techniques we use in healthcare to strengthen our staff and teams.

Standardized patients are people we hire to “act” like they have a particular disease or question about their health needs enabling the learners to apply knowledge in a controlled environment. Confederates are similar in that they portray other members of the team allowing the learners to practice soft skills.

Task trainers are special devices utilized to learn and practice specific skills. They can be as simple as arms to practice injections or as complex as surgical trainers that mock specific techniques like cardiac catheterization or knee scope.

Full body simulators or manikins are used for learning physiology or performing complex skills like anesthesia crisis management. These simulators contain electronics that allow them to breathe, have pulses, heart and lung sounds to really challenge the learners to evaluate the whole picture.

Serious games or Virtual environments allow learners to gain new cognitive skills or interact with teams over and over again. The major advantage to these is that you can have a high throughput (lots of learners) at the same time where some of these other techniques may limit your class size to just a few at a time.

While a significant portion of these techniques are often combined to create what is called a “mixed modality” simulation, they each can be used by themselves for powerful learning and development.


Healthcare Simulation Week is September 11th through 15th this year. If you are interested in learning more about these techniques or how they could apply to your industry, check out the #HcSimWeek hashtag.




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