Professional Development in Medical Simulation


The aviation and aerospace industries are often credited for being the first to embrace simulation training. Many healthcare specialties have widely adopted this practice. Medical simulation replicates clinical care allowing health care workers the opportunity to practice and hone their medical skills without exposing patients to undue risks or harm.  The core aim is to educate learners, assess competency, provide an avenue for research, and improve patient safety. Other benefits may include enhanced gratification with training, refinement of interpersonal communication, and enhancement of the patient experience.   


Applications of medical simulation continue to expand. Simulation professionals must continually adapt to meet the needs of the population they serve.  There are many opportunities for centers to expand their offerings for learners and practicing providers. Professional development with medical simulation can be interpreted in several different manners. Medical simulation can be used to assess current clinical practice for recertification, to enhance clinical practice, or learn a new skill or procedure. There is also the enhancement of skills for those involved with simulation education, such as simulation educators, operation specialists, directors, managers, and standardized patients.  

Continuing Education

Medical simulation can be used to demonstrate clinical competency or for recertification. Once a professional is in practice, there are no standardized means to assess clinical competency other than shadowing them in their practice or reviewing their cases.  The current standard among many hospital systems to maintain certification is by an individual attesting that they can still perform a procedure. Using a validated system to demonstrate a skill or procedure through simulation offers more standardization and objectivity than the methods currently in place in many healthcare organizations. 

Surgical specialties are increasing their use of task trainers and virtual reality in surgical training and certification.[1][2] The benefits of using simulation for demonstrating clinical competency would include control over procedure/scenario variables as well as defined metrics to assess proficiency. 

Additionally, simulation can be used as an opportunity to enhance current practice.  Medical simulation allows for a practicing professional to strengthen existing skills or gain new skills without compromising patient safety or increased risk of harm to patients.  This may be achieved through a short course or with periodic simulations and has been utilized for nursing education to improved recognition and intervention for patients showing deterioration on the floor as well as for improving interprofessional relationships between nursing and care management.[3][4] The application of simulation has been demonstrated within many healthcare professions and specialties.[5][6][7][8]

Clinical Significance

The value of medical simulation has been well demonstrated in its relation to improved medical knowledge, performance, and comfort level with procedures.[9] A key component to successful simulation-based education is competent faculty.[10] Simulation educators and medical teachers come from different educational backgrounds with different career paths.[11] 

Opportunities for professional development and continuing education are essential for simulation educators, especially with such variable career starting points. Also, the field of medical simulation is continually evolving as new technologies and modalities are developed. This variability highlights the need for educators to seek out professional development opportunities that will serve to advance their current understanding to stay up-to-date with best practices in simulation.  

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

There is not a defined path that all professionals delivering simulation education must follow.  However, there are multiple options for continuing education for those involved in healthcare simulation.  Many colleges, universities, and organizations across the nation and internationally offer additional training in medical simulation with courses, multi-day workshops, and even online options for some programs. 

The Center for Medical Simulation (CMS), Harvard's healthcare simulation training facility, is one of the nation's leading training facilities for simulation instructor training. CMS offers onsite training workshops as well as at international host sites, online courses, and the option of hosting the training course at an organization's simulation center.  The Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning at McGill University in Canada is another leader in simulation education.  They not only focus on education but also simulation research and innovation.   

Those interested in advanced simulation training have the option of applying for a simulation fellowship. Fellowships are offered by many colleges and universities and can vary from six months to a year or longer in duration and are often tailored to the fellow's interests.   Fellowships are an opportunity for professionals to immerse themselves in simulation to learn the foundations of simulation education while working to improve their skills as an instructor. In addition, they learn about curriculum development and program management. Fellowships also offer opportunities for mentorship and research.  

The Society for Simulation in Healthcare is a non-profit membership society serving a global community of professionals utilizing simulation for education, research, and testing in healthcare. Members can join an online community with networking opportunities, best practice updates, and a secure blog discussing the latest trends in simulation.  

Many countries across the globe have their own network or society for simulation in healthcare. Additionally, there are many subdivisions and professions involved in a simulation that have societies or organizations. A few of these include the Association of Standardized Patient Educators (ASPE), International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation (INACSL), International Pediatric Simulation Society (IPSS), Gathering of Healthcare Simulation Technology Specialist (SIMGHOSTS), the Global Network for Simulation in Healthcare (GNSH) and the Association for Simulated Practice in Healthcare (ASPIH). Additionally, many of these simulation organizations host national and international conferences for continuing simulation education that are excellent opportunities for connecting with other professionals in the simulation field.    

Mentorship is another invaluable means to advance one's career in medical simulation. Many of the organizations listed above offer mentorship programs to help pair experienced simulation professionals with less experienced educators. Informal mentorship is equally valuable, and connections can be made through networking online or in person at courses and conferences.  

Simulation professionals can also stay up to date with the latest simulation practices through webinars, podcasts, simulation journals, as well as news through online simulation communities and blogs. The number of online resources is continuously changing.  

As mentioned previously, the field of medical simulation is vast and continually evolving. Considering the numerous resources available for simulation, there are ample opportunities for continual learning and professional development in the field of medicine and medical simulation. 

Article Details

Article Author

Kristen A. Whitworth

Article Editor:

Jereme P. Long


7/25/2022 11:16:30 PM



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