Recently, three fundamental changes have been introduced in medical education, all of particular importance to critical care medicine: (1) clinical teaching and medical practice now emphasize evidence-based medicine, (2) patient safety aspects are increasingly stressed, and (3) use of simulation in medical training is spreading rapidly. In 1999, the disturbingly high frequency of life-threatening or even lethal medical complications was emphasized by the Institute of Medicine in the book To Err Is Human. The Institute of Medicine recommended establishing interdisciplinary team training programs incorporating efficient methods such as simulation. Although simulation has been used by the aviation industry and the military for several decades, only during the past decade has this become a teaching method in medicine. Currently, two full-scale computerized simulators are available: METI, provided by Medical Education Technologies, Sarasota, Florida, and SimMan, manufactured by Laerdal Medical, in Stavanger, Norway.
The simulation center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was established in 1994 and has grown quickly to its current large facility, where, in academic year 2003 to 2004, approximately 8000 healthcare professionals were trained on the SimMan. Courses taught include clinical procedures and decision making in perioperative medicine, acute medicine, pharmacology, anesthesiology, airway management, bronchoscopy, pediatric versus adult crisis management, critical events in obstetrics, and crisis team training. Advantages of simulation training over traditional medical education methods include (1) provision of a safe environment for both patient and student during training in risky procedures, (2) unlimited exposure to rare but complicated and important clinical events, (3) the ability to plan and shape training opportunities rather than waiting for a suitable situation to arise clinically, (4) the ability to provide immediate feedback, (5) the opportunity to repeat performance, (6) the opportunity for team training, and (7) lower costs, both direct and indirect.
Within the next decade, use of computerized simulators for evidence-based education and training in medicine is expected to develop considerably and spread rapidly into a very important domain of medical schools throughout the entire world.