Malcolm Gladwell, in his recent book Outliers, suggests that the key to perceived genius is really often devoted practice. It is crucial to learn the right way and then practise these habits. Incorrect methods do not sneak in and become habit by accident. Simulation allows good habits to become ingrained because learning is accompanied by assessment and feedback, unlike learning in the clinical environment, where all too often the only feedback is from adverse events. Breaking complex new tasks into small chunks, which can be repeated with assessment until learnt, is a technique developed by the father of deliberate practice Anders Ericsson. To allow students to do this, access to such tools is required at times that suit the learner.
Studies of simulation training for surgical skills have shown that surgeons trained using simulation techniques make fewer errors and carry out technically more exact procedures. Simulation offers an important route to safer care for patients and needs to be more fully integrated into the health service.
One way in which industries reduce risk from rare events is through simulation. Simulation allows people to prepare for such risky events in a safe environment. It recreates conditions that closely resemble reality, while removing any danger. It means that when people confront a similar environment in a real situation, they do so with the experience of detailed rehearsal. It is widely used in aviation and in the military and is slowly being adopted in medicine.
For these and other skills, simulation is now used routinely. Virtual Medical Coaching advances the technology used in simulation training to fully immerse the student and offer a lifelike experience in a safe environment where metric feedback can be recorded. Once found, training can be altered to make sure that these gaps are filled.
Simulation works. Simulation is important.