How to be a Simulation Learner - VHA SimLEARN
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How to be a Simulation Learner

This section of the website is designed for learners in medical education settings that use simulation. "SimLearners" might be required to use simulation in their courses only sporadically, on a regular basis, or in education settings where it's used extensively. Learners' experience with simulation might be limited or they may be familiar and comfortable with simulation as part of their medical training.

In any case, the information on this page will help orient the SimLearner for participating in Simulation-Based Clinical Education (SBCE) or to help refine skills already in use.

Cutting Edge Simulation for High School Students

Horizons in Medicine Students Learn about Simulation

BSteven C. McCuller and Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott
Dayton VA Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio

A high school student manipulates a scope inserted into the nasal passages of a simulated human head.

Twenty high school students from the Horizons in Medicine program at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine recently visited the Simulation Lab at the Dayton VAMC. They shared an "up close and personal" experience with the latest cutting edge simulation-based technologies used in training healthcare professionals. For the past 32 years, the Horizons in Medicine program has offered local high school students the opportunity to learn about career possibilities in healthcare and the kind of serious preparation needed to enter such careers.

The students rotated through a variety of stations including blood pressure measurement; digital retinal imaging; full size physiologic mannequins which they had to interview and examine; and endovascular, endoscopic, laparoscopic and arthroscopic trainers. Volunteer instructors included staff physicians, physician assistant, nurses, and the medical center librarian. Dr. Scott, Associate Chief of Staff for Medical Education and Director of Simulation, ended the program with a talk about her own career and the exciting opportunities available to health professionals in direct patient care, teaching, research and leadership.


What is simulation and what are the benefits?

SBCE uses various instruction methods and a variety of technologies to provide a mistake-forgiving learning environment. There are 3 main categories of simulation technology:

  • Case studies and role play – two basic forms of simulation that use fictional scenarios to reinforce the trained material. Learners are provided background information, events, and sometimes outcomes. They review facts and concepts. Case studies require discussion, whereas learners participate in role play to re-enact a scenario.
  • Part-task trainers – designed to help SimLearners master the segments or phases of a complex or larger task. As one segment is mastered, another is added. Then the two are practiced together. More segments are added until the complex task is mastered. This is particularly useful in teaching standardized competencies.
  • Full mission simulations – designed to teach a complex task by simulating the full range of environmental complexities typical of that scenario. This type of simulation allows SimLearners to observe the consequences of their actions. Full mission simulation is useful for practicing rare but critical situations that are difficult to train for otherwise.

With simulation education, the VA is bridging the gap between learning and performing. The VA is using SBCE to optimize clinical outcomes and improve patient safety. It is also using SBCE techniques to help healthcare providers improve the customer and patient experience.


Role of the Learner

SBCE is placing learners in new roles which can be exciting as well as frustrating. Understanding and participating in these new roles is as important as the instruction itself.

The goal for SimLearners is to successfully complete SBCE through the use of new instructional techniques and simulated medical situations. These techniques require SimLearners to participate in hands-on, real-time problem solving. Simulation is also effective for recurring instructions and processes which allow for practice and for feedback from the Instructor. This fosters proper learner response and mastery.

The SimLearner(s) objective is to:

  • Undertake medical education seriously, regardless of the tools and instruction method.
  • Participate in SBCE to help master conceptual knowledge, basic skills, and an introduction to the actual work.
  • Participate in SBCE with an emphasis on the actual tasks and the work to be performed in an authentic setting.Respond constructively to feedback and performance assessment directed to him/her as both an individual SimLearner and as a member of a team of SimLearners.


General Competencies for SimLearners

These competencies are categorized into four areas. Some of the ideas and principles of SBCE can be found across several of these areas. This overlap is expected because of the integrated nature of SBCE.

The SBCE competencies include:

  • Administration
  • Instruction
  • Evaluation
  • Technology


As a SimLearner, the primary goal is to prepare yourself for participation in the SBCE. Many of these preparations mirror those that you would undertake for any learning context. The SimLearner will:

  • Obtain the syllabus and any other preparation materials that are required before the SME starts.
  • Understand the instructor's expectations for participation and performance (i.e., class schedule, assessment criteria, etc.).
  • Understand communication protocols between SimLearner and instructor (i.e. email, one-on-one conferences, etc.).
  • Develop a system to keep notes, recordings, print-outs, and other artifacts from your activities (a SimInstructor may have already established this for the learners).
  • If unfamiliar with SBCE, set aside extra time to accommodate a learning curve, do research on the subject, or gather resources to aid in the SBCE activities.
  • Understand and use external sources to assist you with SBCE (i.e., free practice hours, lab scheduling protocols, library, etc.).


The primary goal is to understand the learning objectives of the course or activity. The instructor's SBCE structure will be based on helping SimLearners successfully meet these goals. The SimLearner will:

  • Understand and participate in the learning approach that the SimInstructor will be using and the role that SBCE plays in meeting that learning goal.
  • Understand that SBCE activities may be individual-based (independent work) or they may be team-based (working with a group of learners).
  • Understand and participate in the SBCE activities the instructor has developed for the individuals and the teams. Maintain flexibility in accepting different roles during individual and team simulations.
  • Be responsive to other SimLearners and the SimInstructor during individual and team simulations. Participants may have different degrees of experience with SBCE and come from different backgrounds, cultures, and specialties.
  • Respond constructively to feedback and performance assessment from both the instructor and other SimLearners. Monitor their own learning experiences, taking corrective actions when necessary.


The primary goal is to understand the evaluation criteria and to successfully meet course objectives. The SimLearner will:

  • Understand the grading or evaluation criteria. SBCE may use criteria that is new or unfamiliar.
  • Respond constructively to feedback and performance assessment. Because of the interactive nature of SBCE, your response(s) may be part of the evaluation criteria.
  • Track his/her progress throughout the course of the SBCE.
  • Remediate issues or gaps as promptly and directly as possible. Consult with the SimInstructor to find solutions acceptable to both.


The primary goal is to anticipate the use of simulation equipment and the proficiencies required to use it effectively. The SimLearner will:

  • Acknowledge that SBCE uses equipment and technology unique to simulation. This equipment may respond in unexpected ways and require trouble-shooting.
  • Know to whom equipment problems should be reported or who to contact for technical support.
  • Respect the simulation equipment, technology, and the rules of the facility management.
  • Leave all equipment and technical components in a clean and orderly fashion for use by other SimLearners.