Ziv A, Ben-David S, Ziv M. Simulation based medical education: an opportunity to learn from errors. Med Teach. 2005 May;27(3):193-199

PMID: 16011941


Medical professionals and educators recognize that Simulation Based Medical Education (SBME) can contribute considerably to improving medical care by boosting medical professionals' performance and enhancing patient safety. A central characteristic of SBME is its unique approach to making (and learning from) mistakes, which is regarded as a powerful educational experience and as an opportunity for professional improvement. The basic assumption underlying SBME is that increased practice in learning from mistakes and in error management in a simulated environment will reduce occurrences of errors in real life and will provide professionals with the correct attitude and skills to cope competently with those mistakes that could not be prevented. The main message of the present paper is that this assumption, which serves as the driving force of SBME, should also serve as a starting point for critical thinking and questioning regarding the multiple aspects and components of SBME. These questions, in turn, should lead to empirical research that will provide feedback concerning changes that may be necessary in order to attain the goal of improving medical professionals' performance. Based on such research, SBME will be held accountable for its outcomes, i.e. whether its educational techniques indeed result in decreased occurrence of errors or not, and whether the ability to cope with the errors that do occur is significantly improved. The first of three issues that were addressed concerns individuals' experience of performing mistakes. It is suggested that in order to benefit fully from the experience of performing mistakes in a simulated context, medical educators should create a balance between the emotional load associated with the experience and the professional lessons that can be learned. Furthermore, research should focus on the long-term effects of the experience in changing professionals' attitudes and behaviour. The second question concerned the contribution of the different components of the educational experience to creating the desired changes in professionals' performance. Analysis of the teaching and learning involved in each stage of the educational event should serve as the basis for research that aims at identifying the unique contribution and efficiency of each element, and defining the essential core activities of a simulated experience. Finally, the need to define a newly emerging profession-SBME educator-was addressed. The professional qualifications are, clearly, multidisciplinary and should be based on the growing experience of medical educators in training students and professionals. Defining the profession is essential in order to create academic environments in which professionals will be trained to develop and implement new programmes, accompanied by research and assessment.

Author's contacts: zamitai@post.tau.ac.il