“Be Curious”

Health care professionals from across Nova Scotia come together for medical simulation course hosted by Harvard University

by Kristen Lipscombe

“Be Curious.”

If you looked up close, those were the two words stitched onto the blue ball cap worn by Dan Raemer, principal faculty member of Harvard University’s prestigious Center for Medical Simulation, on the final day of a specialized interprofessional training course held Nov. 10-13 in Halifax.

The slogan on Raemer’s hat seemed to sum up the feelings of the 22 learners gathered inside a classroom at the Collaborative Health Education Building on Dalhousie University’s campus, who debriefed enthusiastically after four long days of intensive instruction from some of the top minds in the medical simulation field.

The participants came together from Nova Scotia Health Authority, the IWK Health Centre, and both Dal’s Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Health Professions, to grow their own simulation skills, while also becoming trained facilitators who can pass on their new knowledge to their fellow doctors, nurses and other health professionals, who want to learn how to use simulation as a safe teaching tool.

“Simulation is an incredibly important part of our teaching programs here, in the faculties of medicine and health professions at Dalhousie, and of course in the health authorities, where we all work,” Dr. David Anderson, Dean of Medicine at Dalhousie University, said during the course wrap-up session.

“There’s an absolute need to train people; to be able to teach simulation,” he said.

November’s provincial training session came to Halifax as part of SimEd Network, a partnership between Dal, the IWK and NSHA that “aims to increase opportunities for interprofessional education and simulation to enhance knowledge, skills and abilities of healthcare providers.”

“We’ve got a lot of learners, (including) students, practitioners that are in training to be specialists, as well as practitioners in the community,” Anderson said. “So we’re really hopeful that the skills that you’ve learned over the last four days are going to enable you to become, or that you have become – you’ve transformed – into simulation experts that will be able to teach the teachers of tomorrow, as well as the learners that you work with.”

Faculty of Health Professions Associate Dean of Research Dr. Cheryl Kozey echoed her colleague’s sentiments on the importance of the medical simulation students taking their new skills back to their work environments, adding she hopes “that we begin to do research on looking at the effectiveness of simulation education.”

“We’ve been very supportive of professional development for interprofessional simulation education, because that’s really important when we’re looking at collaborative health teams, when we get out in the real world.”

The learners, who travelled from across Nova Scotia to participate in the medical simulation course, shared their own thoughts on what they’ve learned from their visiting teachers, who are based out of Boston, Mass.

Despite being a typically technical-minded, clinical-focused crew, instructors and students alike became a little emotional during their debrief, sharing laughs after four days of working closely together, and even shedding a few tears over the joys of learning, with the ultimate goal of providing improved health for individuals and communities.

“Now, I feel like I know more, and have a lot more tools to really help people through these simulations,” one student reflected.

“There have been lots of new ideas that we can take back to our health professions,” added another student. “I appreciated learning about … different interprofessional scenarios where there are more clearly defined roles.”

One student said she learned about strategizing medical simulation scenarios, while another said she’s going back with “a new tool box” full of suggestions to help students become better healthcare professionals.

NSHA Vice-President of People and Organization Development Carmelle d’Entremont said the health authority plans to “use simulation learning as a way in which we invest in our own staff and providers, but also help train the students and residents who come and join us.”

“One of our mandates is to be a learning organization, so simulation learning provides an opportunity for us to achieve that mandate,” she said.

Raemer, who goes by the title of Chief Curiosity Officer on the Center for Medical Simulation website, said the enthusiasm and willingness provided by Nova Scotia's students helped make the four-day course a success.

“All of you guys are devoting your efforts to health care education and picking up the ball … and moving it forward,” he said. “I hope that you’ll continue that journey.”