Simulation in Medical Education: What Can You Really Teach?

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Simulation in Medical Education: What Can You Really Teach?

Sponsored by the Simulation Interest Group of the Academy at Harvard Medical School

Thursday, September 20, 2012 (2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.), Harvard Medical School

Course Director/ Course Planner: Richard Schwartzstein, MD and James Gordon, MD, MPA


Medical simulation has emerged as an important tool in modern medical education. However, the full range and impact of artificial environments can be hard to appreciate in a profession where real patients teach the most powerful lessons. 

The Goal of this Academy Symposium is to explore the utility of medical simulation across a spectrum of modern teaching approaches, and to understand the evolution from simple task training and role play to complex cognitive encounters. The program is designed for faculty with little or no exposure to simulation as a teaching tool as well as for those with experience in one or mores aspects of training in virtual or standardized environments.

At the end of this session participants will be able to:

  • Understand the full range of modern simulation modalities and applications.
  • Identify the variety of simulation resources available in the Harvard medical community.
  • Gain a focused appreciation of at least two simulation-based education modalities.
  • Be able to assess the appropriate use of simulation and access local resources.


Timeline for symposium:

  • 1:30-2:00        Registration
  • 2:00-2:30        Introduction and overview(Academy Director and Interest Group Chair) - Click here to watch streaming video
  • 2:30-2:40        Move to workshop rooms
  • 2:40-3:30        Workshop I : A-F(as below)
  • 3:30-3:45        Break
  • 3:45-4:35        Workshop II : A-F(repeat)
  • 4:40-5:00        Wrap-up/summary/next steps - Click here to watch streaming video


Workshop A:  Training and Debriefing High Stakes Teams via Simulation - Peter Weinstock, MD, PhD, Catherine Allan, MD

Goal: Increasingly, medicine is practiced in interdisciplinary teams that require smooth communication and respect of all participants. From the OR to the ICU to the emergency department,  patient outcomes depend on high performing teams. This workshop will introduce participants to the design, implementation, and debriefing of Hospital-based simulations for high stakes teams. 


  • Understand the major principles and nuances of team training as specifically applied to complex, high stakes teams in the Hospital environment.
  • Incorporate the use of structured processes to build Simulation-based curricula for full-team training.
  • Describe the framework of the safe, structured environment for debriefing high stakes teams to address performance gaps related to deficiencies in teamwork.
  • Describe major safety considerations related to simulations occurring in the native clinical environment (in situ simulation)

Workshop B:   Motor Skills Training in Simulation: Theory and Practice - Roy Phitayakorn, MD, MHPE, Paul Currier, MD, MPH

Goal: Does the old saying “practice makes perfect” apply to medicine? What if the learner is practicing poor techniques? This workshop will help participants draw from established motor theory skills to improve their procedural teaching and learning.


  • To debate the differences between abilities and skills
  • To explain three different motor skill theories and how they relate to procedural simulation/skills training
  • To summarize three different presentation techniques
  • To describe the differences between practice and rehearsal
  • To incorporate a rehearsal technique into your daily procedural simulation/skills training

Workshop C:   Simulation in the Preclerkship Curriculum: How and Why - Emily Hayden, MD, MHPE, Margaret Sande, MD, Nancy Oriol, MD

Goal: The neurobiology of learning tell us that enduring knowledge is fostered by active, experiential formats. This workshop will provide participants an opportunity to learn more about using simulation in preclinical courses, including the chance to create a simulation case appropriate for early medical school learners.


  • Describe theoretical and empirical basis for preclinical simulation
  • Compare simulation for preclinical medical student versus simulation for other levels of medical training
  • Evaluate with simulation is an appropriate educational strategy
  • Compose a case for preclinical students

Workshop D:   Simulation in the Clerkship Curriculum: What about Real Patients? - John Pawlowski, MD, PhD, Laura Rock, MD, David Feinstein, MD, Lauren Fisher, DO

Goal: Overheard on a medical-surgical unit: “if I can spend my time with patients on the ward, why should I go to simulation?” This workshop will examine the role of simulation in the medical student clerkship curriculum


  • Describe why students need to meet real patients
  • Detail the limitations to student contact with real patients
  • Detail the advantages to simulation-based clinical experiences
  • Compose learning objectives and a simulation scenario for clerkship students

Workshop E:    Beyond Mock Codes: Simulation and Immersive Clinical Training - Chuck Pozner, MD, Doug Smink, MD, MPH, Steven Yule, PhD

Goal: Residents and nurses find resuscitation of patients in cardiac arrest to be among the most stressful duties they perform; simulation may offer an opportunity to reduce this stress and improve patient outcomes.  This workshop will introduce the participant to immersive clinical simulation as both a learning tool as well as a means to facilitate both quality assurance and process improvement.


  • Describe the difference between in situ and center-based immersive simulation
  • Discuss the theoretical basis of immersive simulation as an educational tool
  • Initiate the development of an immersive simulation curriculum to meet the needs of learners starting with goals and objectives 
  • Develop a checklist of staff, equipment, and supplies necessary to implement an immersive simulation program
  • Detail the ways in which immersive simulation contributes to quality assurance and process improvement

Workshop F:    Assessing Critical Resident Skills in Realistic Simulations: Focus on Communication Rick Blum, MD, Jeffrey Cooper, PhD, Sharon Muret-Wagstaff, PhD

Goal: Historically, simulation has been used primarily as a teaching tool. In recent years, however, its role in assessment has been growing. In this workshop, participants will discuss and practice the assessment of critical resident competencies using videotaped performances of high-fidelity simulation, with anesthesia as the example specialty and communication as the critical skill example.

  • Describe the unique challenges of assessing resident performance using high-fidelity simulation
  • Compare the requirements, pros, and cons of using various types of observational tools to accurately assess performance in simulation
  • Rate basic communication skills using one item from a behaviorally anchored rating scale and videotapes from a realistic simulation setting


Workshops will be lead by expert faculty drawn from across the consortium of Harvard-affiliated simulation programs including:

  • Gilbert Program in Medical Simulation at Harvard Medical School
  • Shapiro Skills and Simulation Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • STRATUSCenterfor Medical Simulation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Boston Children’s Hospital Simulation Program
  • MGH Learning Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Center for Medical Simulation


The Harvard Medical School is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Harvard Medical School designates this live activity for a maximum of 3 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.