Post Plenary Discussion: It’s All Simulation. Or is it?

By Angela Blood and Petra Duncan

This year at ASPE’s annual meeting, held in San Diego, California, Mr. Geoff Miller of Eastern Virginia Medical School gave the opening plenary talk. The title was “It’s All Simulation,” and Mr. Miller’s evocative presentation struck powerful cords with many in the audience.

Mr. Miller’s premise was that all simulation methodologies, whether they are standardized patients, task trainers, mannequins, virtual reality simulators, etc., are ultimately trying to accomplish the same goal.

While each simulation methodology has a unique history, Mr. Miller pointed out the commonalities that ultimately enable proponents for the different methodologies to find common ground.  He called for all educators interested in simulation to focus some time and attention on working together, rather than guarding territory. 

Ultimately, we all became interested in simulation-based education methods for similar reasons.  The purpose of simulation is to provide active learning opportunities that mirror clinical practice for students and providers with the end result adding up to improved patient safety and outcomes; the use of standardized patients serves a critical role in meeting that goal.

Many ASPE members expressed assent with Mr. Miller’s premise.  However, there were some ASPE members who questioned the practicality of such an endeavor.  As many ASPE members can attest, the use of simulation methods aside from standardized patients is becoming more commonplace; however, there are few Centers who can boast a truly unified governance model including all methods of simulation.

ASPE News is a venue to present different perspectives on timely issues, and Mr. Miller’s challenge provides an opportunity to discuss and share ideas on this topic.

Here are some thoughts that ASPE members have shared regarding this plenary talk:

“By sharing the information from this first plenary session with faculty, [SP educators] can excite others into buying into the simulation world.  Prezi is a good tool to accomplish this.” Anonymous

“You know the saying , ‘all the world’s a stage?’  We think that, ‘It’s all simulation’ could catch on.” Anonymous

“Even if you think you know everything there is to know about simulation, it’s nice to be reminded in this format.”  Anonymous

“I thought the concept that it is all simulation is a great way to look at what we all do. Mr. Miller has a firm grasp on this and did a great job with the history part of this. It is so nice to see someone who is really using the manikin side of simulation also using the SP side of simulation and marrying the two sides. I also loved his Prezi, it was so fun to watch.”  Mary Cantrell, the University of Arkansas School of Medicine 

New members to ASPE reported that the history of the development of the field was especially helpful. 

“It was good to look at different aspects of [the development of the field], and see simulation from different angles.”  Many of the ASPE members we spoke with talked about familiarity with one type of simulation methodology (namely SPs), so having a presentation that considered more than one was useful.  Anonymous

”As someone who works principally in a Simulation Center but has knowledge regarding the use of SPs, I can attest that considering all methods of simulation as ultimately serving the same purpose has been helpful to me. It allows me to take the knowledge I have and add to it. If I have a larger framework for understanding my field, it’s more about health education rather than isolated to any one method. The practicality however of bringing together those who specialize in different simulation methods is more difficult than you might first suspect.”  Angela Blood, The University of Chicago Simulation Center

“Mr. Miller talked about deconstructing and reconstructing our understanding of simulation.  It got me thinking about what others are doing in other labs, and made me wonder about contacting them to join forces.  Collaboration would help us to avoid confusing students.”  Anonymous 

“We are all working to bring skills training to life, and it is an international multi-centered activity.”  Anonymous

“As we enter our second decade as an Association, it is an opportune time for SP Educators to reframe and expand our expertise.  As Geoff demonstrated, the 2 pathways of simulation will most likely merge (and should). We should take this opportunity to be proactive and ensure the collaborative work we do as “Simulationists” continues to highlight and integrate the strong foundations of the SP Methodology. It is our responsibility to reach out to those using device/mannequins with SP assistance but also to develop our knowledge in devise-based simulation as well.  We are in a fascinating time.”  Gayle Gliva-McConvey, President ASPE, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Now we’d like to hear from you – do you think Dr. Miller’s premise is valid?  Is it realistic?  What are the next steps?  What is ASPE’s role in all this?


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