Helping Allied Health students on their journey to graduation

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This article explains why the SIMTICS product exists and the benefits it can bring to hybrid, blended and online courses, as well as to on-ground programs.

A few years ago, in New Zealand, two bright and entrepreneurial surgeons started talking with each other about the lack of useful and engaging educational resources for students who were learning medical procedures.

One of the surgeons was the then head of the Department of Surgery at Auckland University’s School of Medicine and a leading academic, well known in medical circles around the world. He had seen many students come through his classes and experience the frustration of getting to grips with clinical procedures, and trying to pull together all the information they needed to become proficient. He had also experienced the frustrations on the teaching side – students learning at different rates and coming to labs with different levels of competence, achieving inconsistent outcomes, students not well-prepared (and asking silly questions), and on a personal level, the repetitive nature of teaching the same basic skills year in and year out.

The other surgeon was a student for the second time in his life. He had emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand, and became a student again in order to re-take his fellowship exam so he could practice in his newly adopted country.

Between them, the two surgeons understood the needs of both teacher and student, and over many cups of coffee over many months, they came up with the concept of a virtual environment where students could be guided to learn clinical skills in a safe manner. And not just learn about a procedure but also perform it and practice it step by step – and then test their cognitive skills.

Both were of the view that hands-on training time is still critical, but in order to master a skill and gain confidence in a procedure, that is not all psychomotor knowledge. Much of it is cognitive (estimated to be as much as 75%) and therefore that part does not have to be learned in a physical environment. So their idea was that a student can learn a lot of what they need to virtually, long before they get access to equipment, instruments, consumables or come face to face with a simulated or real patient.

So the SIMTICS product that exists today is the brainchild of those two surgeons, Professor John Windsor and George Oosthuizen, which was then brought to life by the technical and medical experts they drew into their team.

Each module has everything in one place that a student needs to learn a procedure and how to perform it safely and accurately – text, video, anatomy, quiz and interactive simulation. A student can learn not just about the procedure, but can try it out for themselves in the interactive simulator, making choices and decisions step by step, with the system guiding them along the way. And then when they’re ready, they can test their skills in the simulation’s Test Mode, which takes them a few steps closer to what they will experience in real life, when they are in that clinical setting with a patient in front of them – with no-one to tell them what to do!

Behind the scenes, SIMTICS tracks all the student’s study time in each module, what quizzes and simulations they’ve completed, how long each one took them – for instance, maybe they scored well but took twice as long as they should. It even tracks the errors the student made in the simulation.

The student can view their logbook and print reports, and determine where they need to focus in order to improve their score next time. Faculty also have a view into the data – to see all activity for a particular student, or by topic, so you can compare study time and results for all students in your class.

SIMTICS can make a huge difference to students. They all learn at different rates, and SIMTICS gives them the time and space that they need to build knowledge and confidence. One story I like telling is about an MA student who got over her fear of using needles by studying with SIMTICS. After a short time she was able to perform a venipuncture almost perfectly. You can read the story here.

Also, instructors often tell us that learning with SIMTICS simulations gives students a greater sense of self-responsibility – it’s no longer the instructor grading them on their procedural performance, it’s the system!

Those are  just a few of the benefits. Here is a fuller list of the main benefits of using SIMTICS:

  1. It provides a safe place for students to practice clinical procedures anywhere, anytime without stress to them or risk to a patient.
  2. Students can undertake guided learning for pre- and post-class work, with immediate feedback.
  3. Students can practice procedures as many times as they want, depending on their personal learning needs.
  4. Students can go back and rehearse procedures or refresh their skills whenever they want to.
  5. It can encourage achievement of higher scores and more effective performance.
  6. The multi-media exposes students to information in different formats, which helps improve learning effectiveness and retention.
  7. Students do not need physical equipment or use consumables when they practice their skills on SIMTICS.
  8. Encourages student self-responsibility for their learning.
  9. Enables schools to offer engaging technology to ‘digital natives’.
  10. When students arrive for labs with pre-knowledge gained through SIMTICS, it frees up instructor time for higher-level activities like coaching, tutorials, Q&A, and more advanced topics.
  11. Improve student and hospital externship experience through the students being better prepared and having a higher level of proficiency in the procedures.
  12. Enable students to continue practicing procedures that don’t present during clinical externships.
  13. Enable students to experience procedures they may only be allowed to observe or assist with at a clinical site.
  14. Can be used for direct student assessment via the logbook (scores, errors, times).
  15. Track out-of-class preparation to meet the credit hour definition.
  16. Demonstrate learning outcomes to accreditors.

As a final point, SIMTICS may be an “online” product, but it offers these benefits to on-ground allied health programs, as well as online, blended and hybrid programs.

Each student has a journey to reach graduation – and the route can vary slightly for each person. SIMTICS virtual simulations can play a part in helping each student reach their destination.

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About Author

Cherry is the Chief Executive. She brings a wealth of expertise to SIMTICS, having started her career as a teacher and moving through a variety of roles including software instructor, project manager, facilitator, management consultant, and senior executive in organizations of all sizes. Cherry has been with SIMTICS since August 2008 and enjoys sharing the benefits of web-based skills simulations with educators and students.

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