The simulated environment offers many opportunities to learners than extend far beyond the traditional lecture or laboratory setting. It has the potential to provide learners with an opportunity to take on a new role, to learn by doing, to experiment, to take risks, to solve problems, and to make decision within a safe context that is close as we can get to the "real" workplace.

In the real-life context, we have no control over the nature of the problems or conditions that present. This sometimes leaves learners to deal with situation when they have not yet developed the necessary skills. With simulation, learners will be exposed to these situations before they encounter them in the clinical setting. It is the responsibility of the educators, rather than the presenting patients, who determine the nature of the learning experience including the difficulty and complexity of the task. In such a controlled environment, learners can be given the time and space to learn from the actions they took and the decisions they make. However, in order to fully realize the potential of simulation, educators need to plan, execute and assess the learning experience within a well-defined curriculum. Teaching with simulation has gained widespread acceptance in healthcare education because it is:

  • safe
  • provides for increasing levels of difficulty
  • allows the ability to demonstrate many patient problems
  • allows standardization and reproducibility
  • allows repetition of procedures that should lead to improved competency
  • allows for the simulation of unusual and critical events
  • allows immediate feedback
  • allows the educator to determine defined outcomes and benchmarks
  • allows a setting to teach interprofessional education
  • allows the ability to build effective healthcare teams
  • allows similar context to actual clinical experiences
  • proven to improve healthcare education, practice and patient safety

Simulation for health professions students and trainees encompasses a wide array of interactive, experiential learning techniques, including:

  • Standardized patients (Lay person coaches to portray a patient with a medical issue)
  • Improvised technology (pigs feet, beef tongue to learn suturing techniques)
  • Screen-based computer programs (realistic physiology, pharmacology and/or a combination of both incorporated into a clinical scenario; problem solving)
  • Task trainers (models for IV catheter insertion, genitourinary exams, thoracentesis, etc.)
  • Virtual reality trainers (designed to simulate a specific task or procedure ie. Laparoscopy cholecystectomy or colonoscopy)
  • Human patient simulators (sophisticated life-size computerized manikins that breathe, have pulses, and respond to medications)