Why Realism Matters

Have you ever been through a CPR course where the time comes for applying what you’ve learned and the instructor says “Pretend that you’re skiing in a forest and you see someone hit a tree.  Aaaaaand….go CPR”.  What?! This doesn’t make any sense at all. You look around the environment (which is generally a classroom), complete a scene survey and feel out of place. Why are there no trees? Do you see a skier?  The disjoint of what the instructor is saying and what you see is really confusing and this approach might not be setting you; the learner, up for success. There’s no opportunity for you to synthesize the information and use all of your senses to make sound judgment and apply knowledge.  I’m not trying to pick on CPR courses, but realism matters.

When designing a learning experience it is necessary to create a scenario or situation that is believable and somewhat realistic. If your scenario involves a skier, there needs to be one.  If you are supposedly on a ski slope, there needs to be evidence. In simulation-based education, there is a concept termed as the “suspension of disbelief”, which means that we know there are some things in the situation which are not entirely accurate or believable. It also means that we try our best with the materials and information that we are given. For example, we know that a patient simulator is not 100% human, however, we will do our best in the given context. We understand that the simulator can be reset in any event or human performance.

In critical scenarios where injuries are apparent, it is vital that the simulator demonstrates the extent of trauma or injury. In other words, the situation needs to make sense to the learner. If the scenario is designed to have active bleeding and wounds, there needs to be simulated blood and trauma. The learner will synthesize this information and the brain will transmit signals such as “Wow, this is important, I need to treat this” response. If the scenario is designed after a fall and head trauma, the scene needs to reflect that.

Realism in simulation matters. The more realistic the design of the situation is, the more accurate the learner response can be. If you want to see what realistic trauma wounds can look like in simulation, take a peek at some of our designs here and let me know what you think.



P.S. If you know of any colleagues that might be interested in our blog, I would really appreciate it.

About the Author: Matthew Jubelius wants to change the future of people development, education, and training. He has championed the design, implementation, and evaluation of simulation-based education and training programs, including quality improvement measures for post-secondary institutions, private industry, and the federal government. Matthew can be reached through www.amoveotraining.ca

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