Over the past 20 years, simulations have become the vital part of medical education. In the far 1998, Krummel in his paper has defined a simulation as a “device or exercise that enables the participant to reproduce or represent, under test conditions, phenomena that are likely to occur in actual performance”.
According to the definition of the Association of American Medical Colleges (published in 2011), medical simulation is “a method used in health care education to replace or amplify real patient experiences with scenarios designed to replicate real health encounters, using lifelike mannequins, physical models, or computers”.
From this definition of the AAMC we can extract the existing types of simulations used in medical education:
- Mannequin-based simulator (in actual physical reality, using a patient mannequin);
- Screen based simulator (on a computer screen only);
- Virtual reality (VR) simulator (using virtual reality)
Think about the well-known flight simulations used for training of pilots to ensure 100% safety of the flight. Commercial aviation is considered to be highly reliable due to its very low failure rate taking into account its inherent risk.
Medical simulations can be viewed as analogous to the flight simulations, and they can significantly improve patient care and ensure patient safety. Therefore, the role of simulations in medical education and health care is tremendous.
One should clearly understand that simulation is a technique, not technology. And this method is aimed to replace the real experiences with the guided experiences, often immersive in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion (Gaba, 2004).
We say “immersive” in a sense that it is generating the feeling of presence, and a user is immersed in a task as if it were in the real world. Usually, when talking about simulator in health care we mean a device that presents a simulated patient (or part of a patient) and is interactive with actions of the simulation participant.
Medical simulation can be a useful training tool on each level of professional experience and knowledge in medicine – starting from medical students and finishing with clinical personnel.
Nowadays, according to the AAMC survey of the teaching hospitals and the medical schools in the USA, preclinical courses simulations are most often used in the area of clinical skills, intro/clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis. Below you can find a bar-chart which represents this statistical data (Figure 1).
There are various types of simulation applications which can be structured according to their specific features. In this article, we describe all the existing types of medical simulations, categorized by 11 groups each of which represents a different attribute of the simulation.
1. AAMC Survey (2011) “Medical Simulation in Medical Education”. Link: https://www.aamc.org/download/259760/data
2. Gaba, D. (2004) “The future vision of simulation in health care”, Qual. Saf. Health Care. 2004 Oct, 13
3. Krummel Thomas, M. (1998) “Surgical Simulation and Virtual Reality: the Coming Revolution”, Annals of Surgery, November 1998, Vol. 228 – Issue 5: pp 635-637.