Simulation as a Serious Game in the Health Sciences Curricula

Eric Bauman, Scott Hagen, Christian Stevens

Consider the following scenario. You graduated from medical school one month ago. It is 3:00 AM. You are covering the pediatric intensive care unit. The unit clerk pages you to report that the patient in Room 355 is unresponsive. He did not wake up when the nurse tried to give him his medications and check his vital signs. You arrive at the patient’s bedside with the registered nurse, who graduated from nursing school just two months ago. You observe that the patient opens his eyes and moans when you gently shake his shoulders and call his name. The nurse tells you his pulse is 170 and his respiratory rate is 30 and very shallow. He is in shock. In the next few minutes, you must work with the nurse to complete a physical exam, order laboratory tests, and decide how to stabilize the patient before his condition worsens or he dies. Should you give the patient IV fluids and medication to control his rapid heart rate, or should you give him oxygen and call the blood bank? Should you call the senior physician? But there is no time; you have to do something now.

Fortunately, Room 355 is not on the pediatric intensive care unit. It is the Department of Anesthesiology’s high-fidelity simulation laboratory, and you and the nurse are still students, who will not graduate for several more months. Simulations like this one are becoming more common in nursing and medical education. Not only are schools offering simulation experiences to their students, students are coming to expect them in the curriculum. Many of today’s students are very comfortable with technology and the immersive role-playing environment associated with simulation. Modern simulation experiences are created in situated clinical environments that immerse students in realistic settings that unfold and progress based on students’ decision-making and actions. In this way, simulation embraces the student in ways consistent with video and online games found in the entertainment industry. Students may see modern simulation as a serious game designed to prepare them for future practice. For educators to succeed in this context, simulations must be provided as not just another serious game, but as a good game — a game with constructive outcomes where students become emotionally involved in their performance.

This session will explore how simulation is best used in the health sciences curricula. The key to successful simulation is integration. Effective simulation occurs in a situated context and provides multiple opportunities for student interaction and reflection. Immersive simulation integrates technical, and behavioral, or human factors skills into the learners’ experience.

The speakers will share their experiences with the integration of simulation into curricula and their research findings related to simulation and learning. The future of simulation as a tool for education and evaluation will be discussed. Participants will be introduced to a variety of simulators, providing a hands-on opportunity to explore several simulators from the simple task trainer to one of the newest high-fidelity infant simulators.

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