4 Reasons why simulation in healthcare works

Monday, 5 March, 2012
  1. Simulating events adds to our understanding of human behavior. It shows us how we react in real life situations and in some sense, shows us how unconscious processes work. Since it is not a real life, it enables us to learn from our mistakes. As such, it can help prevent errors and optimize responses in (critical) situations. For example, noise or other disturbances can be simulated giving a good feel for how distraction works.

  2. In a Simulation Laboratory you can test new tools and methods in a safe and secure environment. In an operating room, or other clinical environment, you can evaluate a wide range of high-tech tools giving you a solid base to make decisions on. Percival et al. (2010) evaluated three AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) using a heuristic evaluation which is an evaluation method often used in Human Factors research. They set up this test at the Healthcare Human Factors and Simulation Laboratory, recorded all interactions with four ceiling cameras, and used The Observer XT for behavioral coding and data integration. This simulation enabled Percival et al. to name a most favorable AED and to give a summary of the top five design recommendations. These technical devices cannot be developed without testing them in a near-to-real life situation. 

  3. In a simulated environment, teamwork can be studied and significantly improved by training specific teamwork skills. Westli et al. (2010) found that shared mental models are associated with team performance. The results of their study indicate that by improving the teamwork skills of different groups of clinicians, it is possible to improve the medical management of such teams. In a simulator, doctors and nurses find a new way of keeping their skills sharp and learning all about how to communicate most efficiently.

  4. Train students by giving them insight into their own behavior. Let them get adjusted to their role in a medical team. In a simulator you can record behavior on video and even more insight in behavior can be gained by using an eye tracker or data acquisition system to measure eye gaze behavior or physiological responses of the students. Immediately after the session, the video recordings can be shown with all other data in The Observer XT. At another time, all data can be studied in-depth in The Observer XT, enabling the trainer and trainee to compare results and evaluate sessions in groups or one-on-one. Training, training, training…haven’t we said it all before?


  • Percival, N. B.; Mayer, A. K.; Caird, J. K. (2010). A heuristic evaluation of three automatic external defibrillators. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting September 2010, 54 (23), 1921-1925.
  • Westli, H.K.; Johnsen, B.H.; Eid, J.; Rasten, I.; Brattebo, G. (2010). Teamwork skills, shared mental models, and performance in simulated trauma teams: an independent group design. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine18 (47), doi:10.1186/1757-7241-18-47.