Introduction: Physical signs that can be seen, heard, and felt are one of the cardinal features that convey realism in patient simulations. In critically ill children, physical signs are relied on for clinical management despite their subjective nature. Current technology is limited in its ability to effectively simulate some of these subjective signs; at the same time, data supporting the educational benefit of simulated physical features as a distinct entity are lacking. We surveyed pediatric housestaff as to the realism of scenarios with and without simulated physical signs.
Methods: Residents at three children's hospitals underwent a before-and-after assessment of performance in mock resuscitations requiring Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), with a didactic review of PALS as the intervention between the assessments. Each subject was randomized to a simulator with physical features either activated (simulator group) or deactivated (mannequin group). Subjects were surveyed as to the realism of the scenarios. Univariate analysis of responses was done between groups. Subjects in the high-fidelity group were surveyed as to the relative importance of specific physical features in enhancing realism.
Results: Fifty-one subjects completed all surveys. Subjects in the high-fidelity group rated all scenarios more highly than low-fidelity subjects; the difference achieved statistical significance in scenarios featuring a patient in asystole or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (P < 0.04 for both comparisons). Chest wall motion and palpable pulses were rated most highly among physical features in contributing to realism.
Conclusions: PALS scenarios were rated as highly realistic by pediatric residents. Slight differences existed between subjects exposed to simulated physical features and those not exposed to them; these differences were most pronounced in scenarios involving pulselessness. Specific physical features were rated as more important than others by subjects. Data from these surveys may be informative in designing future simulation technology.