What is Medical Simulation?

Mary McMahon

Medical simulation is a medical training technique in which a medical situation is simulated, and students are given an opportunity to learn from the simulation experience. In addition to being used for training, medical simulation is also used in testing, with medical students treating model cases to demonstrate their skills to instructors or authorities which certify physicians. The process of medical simulation has become quite sophisticated, and it gets better all the time.

Training mannequins are typically used when learning CPR.
Training mannequins are typically used when learning CPR.

Many people agree that the best way to learn medicine is to practice it. However, this is not always an option. Medical simulation allows people to practice medicine in circumstances which are very similar to those encountered in real life, but without the risk of making a mistake which could kill or maim a patient. This experience can also help medical students prepare for dealing with real patients and emergencies.

Medical simulations make it easier to perform correctly in real emergencies.
Medical simulations make it easier to perform correctly in real emergencies.

In some medical simulations, an actor plays the part of a patient, describing symptoms and his or her condition. The medical student develops a treatment plan for the patient, and the actor provides feedback about whether or not the treatment is working. Sometimes, the actor may be made up with moulage, makeup which simulates medical injuries. The trainee is graded in terms of how he or she responded to the situation.

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Medical simulations may be used to help professionals practice bloodborne pathogen safety.
Medical simulations may be used to help professionals practice bloodborne pathogen safety.

Dummies can also be used in medical simulation. Dummies can range from the very simple dummies used in basic CPR classes to complex surgical dummies, known as human patient simulators. A surgical dummy can breathe and bleed just like an ordinary patient, allowing students to practice surgical procedures with a “patient” who will really respond. Dummies can also record data about student performance which can be used later in evaluations.

Dummies are sometimes used in medical simulation.
Dummies are sometimes used in medical simulation.

In addition to creating individual patients for medical students to work with, medical simulation can also be used to generate complete situations, such as accidents, national emergencies, and so forth. This gives medical students a chance to cope with situations which can become very chaotic very quickly, and it encourages students to work together and enhance communication skills with other doctors, emergency services, public officials, and other people who may be involved in a large-scale situations in the real world.

Medical simulations may focus on responding to specific incidents, such as a traffic collision.
Medical simulations may focus on responding to specific incidents, such as a traffic collision.

Medical students often encounter medical simulation during their training, and people also engage in medical simulations in continuing education. Emergency services, for example, may simulate medical catastrophes like multiple vehicle collisions and train wrecks to practice skills. Simulations give people experience which is as close to the real world as possible, without putting patients at risk.

Paramedics may have medical simulations to train for emergency situations.
Paramedics may have medical simulations to train for emergency situations.

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