Simulation technology is increasingly used to train future and current healthcare professionals to sharpen their knowledge and skills in a safe environment. Today, there are a variety of medical simulation technologies, both physical and virtual, that provide numerous benefits for all types of schools for health professions and healthcare settings (clinics, hospitals, home healthcare, and all support personnel).
Virtual medical simulation technology is changing the way that healthcare professionals prepare for real situations. Simulation is used to reproduce any event before it actually happens. Often, it is used when the testing in the real world would be too costly or risky. Simulation itself isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s also commonly used in aviation, space training and testing, the nuclear power industry, and of course, now healthcare.
What is Virtual Medical Simulation?
Healthcare simulation, or medical simulation, is used for education, training, and evaluation in various medical fields and practices. Both, physical and virtual medical simulation technology, is used to train healthcare professionals in cognitive, technical, and behavioral skills, without putting any actual patients or equipment at risk. For example, a clinical simulation can recreate a clinical environment and unexpected scenarios to help medical students practice thinking on their feet.
Advantages of Virtual Medical Simulation Training
What is the value of simulation? Virtual medical simulation training has several advantages:
- Reduces training variability and increases standardization
- Helps learners’ practice and build confidence in a safe setting before working with real patients
- Can be customized, which addresses locations, language, and unique needs
- Allows for immediate feedback
- Medical professionals work to build or hone their skills, as simulation training allows them to practice without putting any real people in danger or harm
- Eliminates the discomfort learners often experience with in-person, role-play scenarios with actors or peers
- Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
- Users don’t experience the fear of making a mistake or feeling like being judged and can practice skills in a safe environment as many times as necessary.
Types of Healthcare Simulations
The truth is there are many types of healthcare simulations. Some are done virtually, some use replicas of healthcare or emergency environments, some use manikins, and all help healthcare professionals and students practice and learn valuable skills. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common virtual simulations and how they are used.
Virtual Reality in Medicine
Virtual Reality (VR) is being used in medicine to help participants experience and explore through new human-computer interfaces and, thus, to nearly realistically experience these models. As an example, a physical 3D brain serves as a centerpiece allowing specialists in the biology of migraine to assess knowledge gaps in the science of migraine.
Another use is Virtual endoscopy, which may replace standard endoscopic procedures for diagnostic screening. The most highly developed area is in surgical simulations.
Augmented Reality in Medicine
Augmented Reality (AR) superimposes computer-generated images and sounds into the real world. For example, AR X-rays are often overlaid onto patients to help healthcare professionals study and understand anatomy with more context. AR can also help surgeons become more efficient at surgeries. Whether they are conducting a minimally invasive procedure or locating a tumor in the liver, AR can help save lives and treat patients seamlessly. It can also be used to show defibrillators nearby by downloading an app to your phone, and nurses can find veins easier with the use of AR.
Computer-Based Virtual Medical Simulations
These can provide the experience of working with a patient exclusively from a computer. A computer program simulates real-life clinical scenarios in which the learner acts as a health care provider obtaining a history and physical exam, and making diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.
Simulation Recording Systems
A recording of a simulation is actually its own kind of simulation. These unique learning management software systems are used for education and training purposes in healthcare simulation programs around the world. This recording can be used to stream, record, debrief, and annotate educational learning activities, or can be used by personnel who didn’t actually participate but can still gain through observation.