Why Simulation is the Future of Medical Training

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Allied health students have a lot to be excited about–a fast-paced, high-demand field, with generally strong job security, good pay, and plenty of opportunities for professional growth.

Along with these professional perks, though, come a number of significant challenges. After all, in the words of Spider-Man, penned by the late, great Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

When it comes to the world of work, few professionals are tasked with the kinds of responsibility healthcare providers are. Medical and dental professionals go to work each day knowing that virtually everything they do will have a direct and significant impact on the patient’s quality of life.

This is a heavy burden. To ensure they’re up to the task, emerging and established professionals alike must be well trained, confident, and competent. They must remain abreast of the latest technologies, the newest techniques, and the current standards in a vast and ever-evolving field.

This may seem daunting, but students and practitioners enjoy access to resources that yesterday’s professionals could only have dreamt of.

Perhaps the most important and promising learning tool used by allied health students today is virtual simulation.

Virtual simulation is increasingly making its appearance in medical and dental colleges, schools and universities across North America and Europe. As the field continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly apparent that virtual simulation, far more than any other teaching tool, is key to the future of medical training.

What is Medical Simulation Training?

Medical simulation training builds on strategies used in other high-demand fields, such as aviation. After all, pilots in training would never be allowed solo in the cockpit of a multimillion dollar aircraft when they are just learning to fly. Rather, they use computer-assisted simulations to practice the skills they will need in order to keep themselves, their crew, and their passengers safe.

Best of all, these simulations can emulate the unpredictable and changing conditions in which aviators may find themselves, allowing student pilots to experience how a physical aircraft would respond to their actions. This teaches them faster and better than any textbook or class lecture what to do—and what not to do—safely.

The same principle applies to medical simulation training. It allows students to learn clinical skills by simulating procedures on virtual humans. Best of all, students get to practice their skills without worrying about harming patients or damaging medical equipment – or even needing equipment in the first place.

Simulation training enables students to learn the essential steps of a new skill before proceeding on to more nuanced techniques. Thus, students may use simulation training to practice the proper angle at which to insert a syringe during a blood draw or to learn the correct positioning of the transducer during an echocardiogram.

Simulation training is so effective because it is as close to the real thing as possible.

There is simply no other learning method available today that allows students to get a better sense of what the actual procedure looks, sounds, and feels like, before they do one in real life. Nothing else can prepare learners for the challenges of learning to distinguish between important physiological landmarks or pathology, and meaningless acoustic clutter on an ultrasound screen. Nothing can better prepare future clinicians for the difficulties of performing venipuncture on the arm of a squirming toddler.

With simulation, students can fail without risk. They have the luxury of making mistakes while they’re learning—so that when the time comes, when they stand before a living, breathing patient, they get it right. Simulation provides students the gift of experience, at a cognitive level, so they are confident and ready when they come to perform the actual procedure for the first time.

However, simulation isn’t just for students and junior professionals. Seasoned practitioners benefit from the simulated practice as well. New medical and dental technologies emerge every day, so even the most established healthcare providers are constantly learning, developing new skills and refreshing old ones that they have not performed for a while.

Online medical training, particularly web-based simulation, provides nearly limitless opportunities for professional development. With this type of technology, learners can practice on their own time, at their own pace, and with a focus on the particular skills most important to them.

Who Can Benefit from Medical Simulation Training?

The simple answer: everyone. The reality is that, just as no two patients are the same, no two learners are the same either. No matter the student’s individual skill level, their learning needs are unique. The old ways of teaching simply can’t meet the individual needs of students.

Traditional strategies for teaching clinical skills are aimed toward the so-called “average” student. But the “average” student just doesn’t exist. After all, every allied health class and cohort of medical students is made up of individuals, not statistics. One-size-fits-all education strategies no longer suffice.

This is yet another reason why simulation training is so important. The reality is that one instructor alone cannot possibly provide personal, individualized instruction for a typical classroom of students.

Lectures, videos, readings, and demonstrations certainly have their place in the medical classroom. However, when it comes to instrumentalized learning, to students actually being able to do what they’ve been taught, nothing can compare to hands-on practice.

Unfortunately, without simulation training, students rarely get a chance to practice these skills. There simply is not enough access to instructors or to clinical practices spaces to give every student the time they need to acquire these skills. Not just this, but it’s also just not practical or ethical to subject others to unnecessary, sometimes painful, and even potentially harmful procedures solely for the sake of practice–not when effective alternatives are available.

Another thing that makes medical simulation so exciting is its adaptability. Learners can customize the technology to fit their own learning needs and preferences. Education researchers have identified four primary learning approaches: textual/visual, or learning by reading; graphic/visual, or learning by studying images and graphics; auditory, for learning by listening/hearing, and kinesthetic/tactile, for learning by touching and doing.

Past theories posited that individuals might learn better through one particular style that suits them best, but it is now known that no-one fits neatly into a single learning style. People learn most effectively through a blend of methods, to engage different parts of the brain, and what matters most is what strategy predominates and when. What works well at one stage of the learning process may not work as well at another. Think about it—when you are first introduced to a challenging skill, you may start to learn about it by hearing it carefully explained to you (auditory) and watching an overview video (visual). You then begin to explore images, diagrams, and other graphics for more detail (graphic/visual). After that, you may turn to the written description of the material (textual/graphic) to check your understanding before trying at last to put the new skill into practice (tactile/kinesthetic).

Hence the power of using simulations for medical and dental training. A well-designed simulation product uses each of the four principal learning strategies to meet students’ needs at every stage of the learning process. At any point in time, students may choose to study 2D images and 3D models; they may read procedure descriptions and assessment explanations; they may watch procedures being performed and hear them being explained, and then they may practice them in real-time, on highly realistic 3D anatomical models.

After all, learning isn’t a straight path from introduction to mastery. There are twistings and turnings, advances and steps backward. A comprehensive medical simulation product allows for this non-sequential learning process. No matter where students may be in studying a particular procedure or skill, they can always return to an earlier phase or skip ahead to a more advanced level.

Modern simulation technologies allow students to listen to step by step explanations, watch demonstrations, study models, or practice techniques whenever they want, wherever they want, and as many times as they want. This creates a learning experience that is not only highly individualized, but also fully immersive, promoting content mastery and retention.

Medical Simulation and Lifelong Learning

Whether you are a student dreaming of a career in medicine or dentistry, an emerging clinician just embarking on a new career, or an established professional with years of experience under your belt, if you find yourself in the field of medicine or allied health, then you know that learning never ends.

Health care is an ever-evolving field. Professional success means keeping pace with the rapid advancements made every day in medicine and dentistry. This is often far more easily said than done, however. Most professionals simply don’t have time to commit to traditional, brick-and-mortar training programs, let alone the associated travel and time away from work. Likewise, for current students, the demands of their training programs are often simply too much to enable them to pursue other development opportunities.

Online medical training programs have flourished in recognition of this growing need for customizable, on-demand training for working professionals and busy, often overwhelmed, students. E-learning programs enable students to train at their own pace and on their own schedule. Many of these even offer program and course certifications, allowing learners to benefit not just by acquiring a new skill, but also by building their professional credentials.

So Why SIMTICS?

Let’s face it, for all the reasons described above, simulation is the future of medical training. But how do you select the best training tools among a veritable sea of choices? This is where the SIMTICS advantage is clear.

With SIMTICS, you have access to the most comprehensive simulation technology on the market today. You get to reap the rewards of simulated learning: the ability to see and hear the material as many times as you need to; the ability to get guidance from the system and practice the essential skills you need without having to jockey for access to instructors, equipment, or practice spaces; the luxury of learning without the anxiety of having to impress a professor, without the pressure of facing a room full of fellow learners, and best of all, without the threat of harming a patient.

However, the benefits don’t end there. With SIMTICS, you control your own learning. You choose what you learn and when. Rather than following someone else’s curriculum schedule, you make your own, based on what you still don’t feel confident in, what new techniques you would like to master, or what perviously-learned skills you need to brush up on.

Because SIMTICS allows you to choose the lessons you want, by selecting relevant modules, your learning experience is more focused. Thus, you spend your time and effort on that which is most professionally relevant for you at any given time. And when your goals and needs change, so too can your learning strategy.

As a valued SIMTICS learner, you can select as many or as few modules as you want. Study the skills you choose, and skip the lessons you don’t need, or don’t need yet. Suspend your membership if needed, and resume when you are ready. This is true on-demand, customizable learning at its best.

But there’s more to the SIMTICS advantage—SIMTICS also offers course certifications when a module is successfully completed. Thus, not only are you learning new skills and developing old ones, but with SIMTICS you are also engaging in the ongoing professional development employers value and often require. Continuing education credits are also available for some modules.

Given the vast benefits of SIMTICS simulation training, you may think that the cost would put such technology beyond your reach. However, SIMTICS’ commitment to ensuring state-of-the-art, accessible learning tools for all, means that we are equally committed to offering our learning solutions at a price our learners can actually afford. You don’t have to be a multi-billion dollar university to benefit from the SIMTICS advantage. We offer subscription plans suitable for every budget! SIMTICS’ learning modules start at just $12.50 per month for modules in the medical imaging library, and only $9.50 per month for all other modules. And if you want to access more than 4 modules in a month, we also offer the monthly Flexi plan. Best of all, you pay only for the months you train! And for serious students, the Comprehensive plan gives you 12 months access to all the modules in your area of interest for a one-off price.

The Takeaway

Whether you are studying or working in medical assisting, dental assisting, nursing, medical imaging or any other health care career, your professional success depends on keeping your skills sharp and your knowledge up-to-date. To be the best, you must learn from the best, benefiting from the most advanced and effective resources at your disposal.

Research increasingly shows that virtual simulation, more than any other medical training strategy, fits that bill. No matter your individual learning preference, your skill level, or your professional goals, medical simulation training can provide the learning you need, how ever and whenever you need it.

Out of the immense collection of online health education programs and virtual simulation software, none offer the flexibility, affordability, or functionality of the SIMTICS suites of learning modules. With SIMTICS, you truly have the power to take control of your learning to master the skills and techniques most important to you, all without committing to expensive training programs and content irrelevant to your particular goals and interests. This is optimized, customized, and dynamic learning at its finest and it is what makes SIMTICS stand apart from the rest. Because we know that learning is best when it is most meaningful, we invite you to explore our full library of SIMTICS training modules and to experience for yourself the kind of powerful learning that only virtual simulation can provide.

With SIMTICS simulation training software, you:

  • study what you want, when you want, and wherever you want
  • review difficult material as many times as you choose and in the ways that work best for you (visual/graphic, visual/textual, auditory, kinesthetic)
  • practice complex procedures on highly realistic simulated models without fear of harming a patient, damaging expensive equipment or using up consumables with multiple practice attempts
  • pay only for the lessons you need, including the option to suspend and re-start your subscription at any time
  • earn training certificates and professional development credits.

Let SIMTICS provide the tools you need to take your learning to the next level. Contact us today to see how you can put our suite of simulation-based learning modules to work for you!

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About Author

SIMTICS enables learning & testing of cognitive clinical skills anytime, anywhere. Its multi-media cognitive simulations are integrated with 3D anatomy, quiz, video and text, so all the resources the learner needs are in one place. Like an online “flight simulator for clinical procedures”, SIMTICS de-risks the learning experience and allows learners to practice and rehearse as often as required to build competence and confidence. SIMTICS is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand and has a US sales office in Hartford, Connecticut, with resellers in India, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

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