FAQs: Answers to Common Questions about Simulation in Healthcare Education
Simulated training exercises have been part of medical education for more than 2,000 years. While medical and nursing students once learned their craft using statues with “veins” made of blown glass, today’s medical simulation manikins are sometimes indistinguishable from human patients. Simulation solutions allow students to practice, assess, and perfect their skills—from taking vitals to triage to surgery—with no risk to real patients. Video capture designed for debriefing further enhances the value of simulation education by allowing instructors to address specific actions and results.
If you’re considering implementing a simulation system in your institution or organization, you may have a lot of questions about what will be the right solution for you, and what it will take to operate and maintain it. Michael Young is Level 3’s Healthcare Simulation Technology & Operations Consultant and he has the answers to the most frequently asked questions about simulation in healthcare education.
Q: What capabilities do I need in a simulation solution?
A: A simulation system allows students to carry out real-life scenarios in a controlled, simulated environment. If you’ve ever practiced CPR on a “dummy,” you’ve participated in a simulated learning environment. Simulation training is particularly prevalent in medical training because it allows students in both nursing and medical schools to address life-and-death situations—resuscitation, wound care, triage, surgery, vitals monitoring, emergency care and more—without the pressure of actual life and death. Solutions vary in complexity depending on your specific training needs, and Level 3’s proprietary SimStation application can support a range of system configurations. The most basic simulation offering includes multi-camera support viewable on a single screen with real-time audio. Intermediate solutions may allow data from patient monitors, whether real or virtual, to be captured as a video stream that can be recorded, broadcast, or both. More advanced systems are compatible with training manikins that play the role of a patient during a simulated healthcare scenario. In this application, a simulation audiovisual (AV) system would interface with a manikin by automatically receiving a data stream during a scenario session or immediately upon its completion. Simulated events in the scenario—for example, increasing the respiratory rate of the “patient”—are time-stamped and indexed for later review and debriefing. This functionality comes at increased cost.
Q: How will simulation benefit my institution?
A: Teachers and students both benefit from comprehensive, hands-on learning. Educators can move away from lecture-focused, one-sided teaching and instead provide an interactive, learner-focused experience that emphasizes practical skills and address real-time student questions and responses. Students benefit from life-like learning environments that allow them to assess outcomes in a controlled way. For example, a nursing student had a strong emotional response when her actions in a simulation led to the “death” of her “patient.” Experiencing and debriefing such outcomes in a controlled, simulated environment better prepare providers to prevent or manage those outcomes in the real world.
Q: What is the cost?
A: The first question on the lips of anyone considering a simulation solution is how much it will cost. The cost largely depends on your organization’s needs and application of the solution. For example, how many rooms are involved in your simulation environment and what type of rooms are they? Will you be following one patient from the emergency room to an exam room to a surgical theater? Or do you need to simultaneously track multiple patients in one large area? How many images do you need to capture per second? In a standard simulation, 30 frames/second is usually sufficient, but for more precise disciplines such as surgery, 60 frames/second in high definition is required. Data collection requirements, storage requirements, software/hardware requirements, and your debriefing process will all impact total cost. Considerations include whether you are recording data from the patient manikin as well as portable monitors measuring vital signs, how long you need to store recordings, etc.
Q: Will the solution go on our network?
A: IT departments worry about having additional boxes or devices added to their network to support a large simulation system. A simulation system does require network access, but a dedicated simulation AV network behind its own router or VLAN can prevent a slowdown of the larger network. User-based access to a dedicated simulation network—such as requiring user credentials—can help protect the network. In addition, user-based access to a separate simulation network also addresses HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) compliance requirements.
Q: What kind of storage will be required for all that data?
A: Because of compression standards, simulation recording file sizes can vary by as much as 500 percent. The length of the recording and the amount of movement captured in the recording are major factors in determining storage requirements. As a general rule, a recording with four video and audio streams would require a minimum of 100 MG per minute or 6 GB per hour. The length of time you need to retain each recording will also determine storage requirements. While most simulation AV systems record onto a network-connected PC, server, or DVR-type device, removable or external media storage capabilities can be built into a simulation system for growth and scalability. While redundancy of recorded files is recommended initially as a precaution, scheduled culling of duplicate files can prevent unnecessary accumulation that eats up storage space.
Q: What will it take to use and maintain a simulation solution?
A: The intended use of your simulation solution will determine the type of system you need and what skills and expertise will be required to operate and maintain it. Possible integration with additional technologies, such as manikins, will further inform your operation and maintenance requirements. Once your solution is installed, hiring an in-house simulation technician is highly recommended for ongoing support and operation—especially if your system will grow more complex. AV system integrators should also coordinate with IT managers and network specialists to ensure synchronization on the software side of the system.
Q: What support services are available?
A: Most experienced and qualified system integrators offer various warranties and maintenance service programs to fit your organization’s specific needs and budget. Even if your integrator is not headquartered nearby, a good partner will train and deploy a local AV service technician to troubleshoot issues and perform routine repairs. Be sure to ask your integrator about what project warranties and extended warranties are available, what they cover, and what other options they provide for maintenance contracts and on-site and other kinds of support.
Why Integration Matters
Ensuring your simulation solution is properly integrated from the beginning will help maximize your investment and learning outcomes. From system design and installation to security compliance, data storage, and more, a qualified simulation technology integrator can set you and your students up for success.
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