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Bringing Good Teaching Cases “To Life”: A Simulator-Based Medical Education Service

Gordon, James A. MD, MPA; Oriol, Nancy E. MD; Cooper, Jeffrey B. PhD

Special Theme Article

Realistic medical simulation has expanded worldwide over the last decade. Such technology is playing an increasing role in medical education not merely because simulator sessions are enjoyable, but because they can provide an enhanced environment for experiential learning and reflective thought. High-fidelity patient simulators allow students of all levels to “practice” medicine without risk, providing a natural framework for the integration of basic and clinical science in a safe environment. Often described as “flight simulation for doctors,” the rationale, utility, and range of medical simulations have been described elsewhere, yet the challenges of integrating this technology into the medical school curriculum have received little attention.

The authors report how Harvard Medical School established an on-campus simulator program for students in 2001, building on the work of the Center for Medical Simulation in Boston. As an overarching structure for the process, faculty and residents developed a simulator-based “medical education service”—like any other medical teaching service, but designed exclusively to help students learn on the simulator alongside a clinician-mentor, on demand. Initial evaluations among both preclinical and clinical students suggest that simulation is highly accepted and increasingly demanded. For some learners, simulation may allow complex information to be understood and retained more efficiently than can occur with traditional methods. Moreover, the process outlined here suggests that simulation can be integrated into existing curricula of almost any medical school or teaching hospital in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Dr. Gordon is director, G.S. Beckwith Gilbert and Katharine S. Gilbert Medical Education Program in Medical Simulation, scholar in the Academy, and assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School (HMS), and on faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston, Massachusetts; Dr. Oriol is associate dean for student affairs and associate professor of anaesthesia, HMS, and on faculty in the Department of Anaesthesia, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts; Dr. Cooper is associate professor of anaesthesia, HMS; director of biomedical engineering, Partners HealthCare System; director, Center for Medical Simulation; and on faculty in the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, MGH.

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Gordon, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Clinics 115, Boston, MA 02114; telephone: (617) 726-7622; e-mail: 〈jgordon3@partners.org〉.

© 2004 Association of American Medical Colleges