Simulation: Not just for gamers
Melissa Andrews
April 19, 2017

What trend or issue for professional development in career and technical education do I feel is going to be the most important this year? Simulation! Research shows that simulation is a very effective learning strategy that has many game-changing program and industry benefits. Simulation contributes to better patient outcomes in the medical field with military simulation saving lives and expenses. The positives are profound.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The military can conduct fewer costly live exercises and instead, put troops in the cockpits and drivers’ seats of more affordable simulators. Airline pilots, train engineers, firefighters and police can effectively learn what to do in life-threatening situations. The auto industry can test safety measures through computerized performance tests and in the culinary world, manufacturers can even simulate the amount of required motions it takes to slice carrots or effectively model food production start to finish. It can optimize cafeteria and food service systems and make more efficient food prep and production possible. During the planning phase of software development or in industry production, simulation can also be employed to determine whether a facility may have any faults, particularly with regard to its automation systems. Software has also been developed to virtually test a complete production plant before construction begins including all associated components, technical data, motors, pumps and gear units. This process can ensure, for example, that a valve is opened before a feed pump starts; otherwise, the pump or the line would run dry and be damaged. Let’s not forget about sales or pharmacy training or any training or virtual testing in general. The sky really is the limit.

One of the strongest support areas of simulation is the medical field. Surgeons can practice complicated surgeries using robots and simulators away from the patient or brush up on techniques before actual procedures. In nursing, simulation activities improve skills like recognizing a deteriorating patient, triaging emergency patients, managing stroke patients and more. With the use of computerized mannequins that exhibit a wide range of patient conditions, students can develop non-technical or interpersonal skills like patient handoffs or teaching diabetes self-management strategies to patients. Situations might include a mock hospital room, exam room, critical care room, operating room, labor suite or even a senior citizen’s apartment. Computerized mannequin patients can range in age from neonatal to adult, and they can be assigned names and medical histories, along with anatomically correct features like a pulse, specific pupil responses, speaking ability and even blood. The mannequins respond to student-provided care and to medications with real medical equipment like IV pumps and crash carts. Instructors can remain hidden behind one-way mirrors in order to evaluate student performance without being physically present bedside.  

Simulation saves businesses money and provides real-life experiences without purchasing expensive equipment. The training can also be repeated with accurate scenarios where students are allowed to make mistakes before being put into live situations. Simulation is transforming how we conduct business, make life decisions and interact with our world. It is also changing how we educate and enhance performance. Sim worlds aren’t just for gamers anymore.

 Melissa Andrews is associate director for career and technical education for the Illinois Community College Board in Springfield, Ill. This blog post is a content collaboration with ACTE and the Educators in Action blog.

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