Monday, 7 November 2016

Teaching medical students with simulation

Simulation-based research projects, with a focus on teaching medical students, were showcased by Monash Rural Health Bendigo lecturers at the recent Australasian Simulation Congress.

The work of senior lecturers’ Dr Cameron Knott, Pam Harvey and Adele Callaghan was presented at the inaugural congress. The event bought together three simulation conferences for the first time - SimHealth, SimTech and the International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA).

Monash Rural Health has long researched, developed and practised the use of simulation as a teaching modality for medical students and other healthcare workers and students. It is delivered across the school’s numerous regional sites, often within dedicated simulated suites. “Simulation, as a teaching method, involves students practising skills relevant to their profession while being in a safe and supportive simulated learning environment,” Ms Harvey said.

Deteriorating patients and junior doctors

At the congress, staff members discussed research projects which look at the impacts of simulation on students. Ms Callaghan’s research focused on final year medical students and their experiences participating in a ‘Patient Safety’ module consisting of team-based clinical scenarios based around a patient with worsening symptoms.

Her subsequent report was co-authored by Dr Knott, an intensive care physician at Austin Health and Bendigo Health who is also an academic lead at Monash Rural Health Bendigo’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre.

“Recognising the deteriorating patient is a crucial skill for junior doctors,” Ms Callaghan said, “so we focus on the communication and procedural skills that need to be applied in the time before the response team arrives.” Initial findings showed students had applied the skills learned through simulation, in clinical practice – a result Ms Callaghan said would help to inform curriculum for future students.

Breaking bad news

Ms Harvey’s research studied the effect of a series of simulated workshops teaching communication skills associated with breaking bad news. Students practised breaking bad news before being videoed performing this in a mock exam situation where they were assessed by doctors.

She said the research showed the effectiveness of this teaching approach. “Gaining a perception of what the patient understands about their situation is very important when the news you need to deliver is not good,” Ms Harvey said. “Unless you know where the patient is at, you can’t empathetically and appropriately communicate at a time when we know communication influences patient outcomes.”

Laparoscopic surgical model

Monash medical student Sam Alexander, who has completed numerous placements with Monash Rural Health across Gippsland, also gave a presentation on a new laparoscopic surgical model he is developing with Monash Children’s Hospital paediatric surgeon Mr Ram Nataraja.


The congress was also attended by Marnie Connolly, senior lecturer at MRH East and South Gippsland and winner of the 2015 Achievement Award presented by Simulation Australasia, which recognised her “significant contribution to the advancement of modelling and simulation within Australasia.”  She was accompanied by fellow East & South Gippsland researcher Casey Stubbs.

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