Leveraging Innovation and Technology to Advance Simulation Education - VHA SimLEARN
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Leveraging Innovation and Technology to Advance Simulation Education

By: Cherie A. Bolden-Dickerson, BS
Project Manager
VHA SimLEARN National Simulation Center

ORLANDO, Fla. – Back in mid-March news was swarming all over the country about a devastating pandemic that was affecting the world. While training operations at SimLEARN were steady, the dialogue began in response to this increasing threat. Soon after, safety measures were put in place to lessen our footprint at the SimLEARN National Center in an effort to ensure the safety of our staff and learners. What was initially expected to be a 30-day hiatus for face-to-face training soon turned into an indefinite reality. Our training world at SimLEARN as we know it had come to a halt. We had begun delivering our face to face courses for FY20 and the thought of switching gears during the 2nd quarter was unthinkable. We knew we had to strategize quickly and respond innovatively with regards to the delivery of our courses for the foreseeable future. SimLEARN focused its efforts on developing and fast-tracking courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once these courses were implemented, we had to think about how our traditional face to face courses were going to be delivered. This was not an overnight process and unfortunately, we had to cancel most of our remaining courses for the remainder of FY20. We also had to start with the redesigning of our courses for virtual delivery.

Fast forward to today and staff at SimLEARN are rolling out a new and innovative training model where distanced learning meets simulation. Through the SimLEARN Virtual Academy, we will offer a training platform that eliminates travel in the interest of saving precious resources and decreasing our clinicians’ time spent away from Veteran care. These courses will reach learners where they are; in their clinical areas. Synchronous courses will include virtual instruction through learning platforms such as SimIQ, MS Teams, WebEx, and Zoom. Asynchronous instruction will offer pre-learning for synchronous events, just-in-time training solutions such as Moodle, a Learning Management System platform, videos, scenarios, and refresher training.

Our latest simulation efforts require a great deal of coordination, communication, and teamwork. Our team is made up of a curriculum developer, project manager, education technician, and simulation technicians who work diligently in support of daily training operations. We work together to ensure that our programs obtain accreditation such as the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and provide our learners with various program certifications.

An innovative curriculum is developed and enhanced to address the learning gaps, share best practices, and meet the needs of our learners in their local environments. Evaluation plans are created to ensure that students meet core competencies, are able to perform skills at their facilities, and improve and validate content and delivery modalities. Over 25 “how-to” and “quick tip” videos for SimTube, a video platform that offers just-in-time video refreshers, have been created by our simulation experts. Training materials such as standard operating guides, cognitive aids, brochures, and other course documents have been revised to include updates and highlight the new modalities that have evolved over the last few months.

Although we have lost the ability to connect face to face in a traditional learning environment, it has become increasingly important that we maintain a clear line of communication for the successful delivery of our training programs. Through alternative training modalities, we must maintain collaborative efforts with our internal and external staff and learners. Virtual communication will become easier to navigate as we explore innovative ways to connect in our new virtual world. Our innate human ability to overcome this pandemic and embrace change has transformed the way that we deliver training and has allowed us to remain relevant. Our new direction in education will allow us to maximize productivity and better utilize our resources which will have a great impact on how learners will care for our Veterans. One of our latest success stories is the Society for Simulation in Healthcare’s acceptance of our SimLEARN Virtual Academy abstract proposal to be featured as a live presentation during the 2021 International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare Virtual Conference in February. This will provide SimLEARN a wonderful opportunity to showcase one of many great programs being delivered in the face of one of the world’s most difficult and trying times in our history.