HEAL - Simulated patient training program

I came to the HEAL training with no experience in acting as a simulated patient (SP) in health care education. However, I had had some experience in role plays related to IT education. The one day HEAL training was an excellent introduction to doing this kind of work in health education.  The training was well structured and professionally delivered.

There was good mix of theory and practical exercises. On the theoretical side it covered what an SP is, why SPs are used, the responsibilities of an SP and the different types of SP work in health education. On the practical side a structured 4 stage model for preparation for role portrayal was introduced and the first stage of the model was completed for a sample scenario as a group exercise. This was an excellent way to become familiar with the patient role. A one-on-one role rehearsal activity followed. There was an opportunity to role play both the patient and the health professional.

An important part of SP work involves giving feedback. The HEAL feedback framework was introduced. The presenter role-played giving different types of feedback. This was to emphasise the type of communication required for giving feedback and was a very effective way of getting information across. We were given opportunities to practice giving feedback both in the role of patient and as health professional.

Printed material covering the main aspects of the training was provided for participants to take away. This included the 4 stage model for role preparation, the HEAL feedback framework and sample questions the health professional may ask.

Some aspects of the training were especially valuable. We were encouraged to act out the roles in a realistic manner.  I found the session on learning to analyse the patient role and provide a backstory to a case study to be very helpful and an essential part of preparation for a role. The opportunities to get feedback on my performance in various roles was also very useful.

Overall the training was well designed and very effective. It was apparent that a lot of thought had gone into the training techniques and methods used. I would recommend the HEAL training for everyone who will be involved in SP work.

You can find out more about the HEAL Simulated Patient training sessions here -


Review of Laerdal SimMan 3G Technical Service Course

As someone who is new to the Simulation Technician role with having only 12 months experience, I jumped at the opportunity to advance my skills by attending the Technical Service Course run by Laerdal. The two day course covered the following topics;

  • Intermediate troubleshooting
  • Troubleshoot and fix connection issues
  • Calibrate fluids
  • Calibrate IV arm flow sensor
  • Perform regular cleaning of fluid tanks and IV arm flow sensors
  • Battery changes
  • Software upgrades (including LLEAP)
  • Preventative maintenance

I found that it was well suited to my expertise with the key learning focus on maintenance and the technical side of 3G. We also spent considerable time learning the IT component.

The great thing about this course was that it taught me not only what I could maintain, fix and replace but also what not to touch, the things that should only be done by Laerdal. I came to realise that although being highly technical and complex SimMan 3G is also very easy to maintain and keep in perfect running order with the information gained from this course.

I found the trainers to be highly knowledgeable of the manikin and understood the expertise of the participants very well and catered for them by adjusting the content to suit.

I would highly recommend all sim techs who use SimMan 3G to attend this course whether they perform maintenance or not. One of the main advantages of attendance was that anyone who has completed this course could save their employers a considerable amount of money by maintaining SimMan 3G themselves without costly external repairs.

I would also recommend attending this course for any users of SimMan 3G. I believe that everyone would benefit from the knowledge of how SimMan 3G works, what his limitations are and how he can utilised in a simulation.

By Nick May, Simulation Technician,

La Trobe University, Albury Wodonga.


DASH (Debriefing Assessment for Simulation in Healthcare) Rater Training Workshop

Center for Medical Simulation

Cost: USD $375 per attendee*

DASH Rater training is offered every 3-4 months from the Centre for Medical Simulation. It’s a 4 hour webinar designed for experienced simulation educators who are interested in learning how to assess the quality of debriefing.

Throughout the webinar participants review the six elements of effective debriefing (as defined by the DASH) and observe/assess three debriefing sessions using the DASH rater. Participants are then given time to discuss responses and compare ratings. 

Prior to the webinar participants are recommended to familiarise yourself with the DASH Rater Handbook and this took me 1.5 hours to do so. Some participants had not completed the pre-reading however I think it was important to do this as it was assumed knowledge when the webinar started.

I personally attended the course as a relatively inexperienced facilitator who wanted to gain a better understanding on the elements of a good debrief in order to improve my own debriefing skills.  I found the training really useful and I think I am benefitting from the training immensely. I like the structure that the DASH Rater Handbook provides to debriefing as it states in very basic terms the elements of an effective/ineffective debriefing.  I have noticed that I am making a conscious effort to improve elements of my pre-briefing/debriefing based on the training and am observing the skills of other facilitators within simulation-based education to provide constructive feedback.

I did initially have some technical issues hearing audio whilst connected to the webinar and there were technical support available to assist with this throughout the webinar. 

All in all, I think the course was highly beneficial in providing me a debriefing structure and a critical framework to improve my debriefing skills. 

Sophia Mullins - Simulation Education Coordinator

*(Correct as of 1/2/2016)


MOOC review – Health Literacy and Communication for Health Professionals

A must-do if you write simulation scenarios and a should-do for SPs.

I understand that health literacy and communication are not obvious topics for a simulation website but if you scratch the surface of this course you will see just how relevant these issues are. For anyone involved in scenario design, it is vitally important to have an understanding of health professional communication and health literacy to understand how these issues influence practitioner/patient relationships.

As a bonus, this course also contains some interviews with simulated patients about their experiences in helping to teach health literacy and communication to health professionals.

The course content was developed by University of Nebraska in the United States. There are some references to US health policy and programs but largely the content is relevant to all health professionals.

There are many resources provided as supplementary material in this course. Most are US based but again, almost all are relevant to those working in healthcare outside the US. Overall, I really liked the content but wasn’t so keen on some of the assessments.

There are weekly quizzes which I found quite easy, but then again I am an experienced health professional so would expect to be able to answer them correctly.

There are also points allocated for forum posts, which I dislike as I don’t usually participate in forums when I complete MOOCs. I completed all the posts and tried to make them worthwhile or interesting, but when everyone has to comment you end up getting lots of repetition in the comments made. I prefer forum participation to be optional but this is just my personal preference and I know a lot of people like them.

There are four assignments for the course, which I thought were quite worthwhile. They involved producing an infographic and an icon array to communicate a health message, interviewing a health professional, and planning a way to improve an organisation’s approach to health literacy.

The downside of these assessments was the tight timelines for submission and peer review. Peer assessments when done well like this are great, the tight timelines however are a necessary evil.  

My advice to those of you who are involved in writing scenarios is to at least look at some of the content in this course, even if you don’t plan on completing it. There are lots of patient stories that will give you some ideas for when you are writing scenarios.

Additionally, having a better understanding of the efforts being made at an organisational level to support health literacy will help you to write more comprehensive scenarios. It might even inspire you to write a scenario focussed on health literacy and communication.

This course would also be relevant to SPs, so that they can understand the different experiences that patients have when they consult with health professionals. It will help the SP to better represent the health consumer and adapt their communication style appropriately to the character they are portraying.


MOOC review - Powerful tools for teaching and learning: Digital Storytelling

University of Houston via Coursera

I had an idea that digital storytelling could be a way of briefing simulation participants on the patient’s journey or history, or to create context for a simulation. The course also appealed to me through the storytelling aspect as without knowing much about digital storytelling, it seemed like it might also provide me with some learning that I could use in scenario development.

The first impression from the course wasn’t a great one. The video lectures are not very appealing and can drag on a bit. Once I got to the lecture with the resources I was happier. I use the Coursera app on my phone to download the videos in advance and then watch them at a convenient time.

Once I had the link to the University of Houston digital storytelling resources I was able to have the video playing on my phone while I navigated around the website on my PC. I used this strategy when navigating around all of the online resources mentioned in the course and found that it worked well for me.

Most of the content in the videos is demonstrating the technical aspect of creating a digital story. There isn’t much on story writing itself, but there was enough to get you started. The peer assessment deadlines are tight – you only have three days after submission to assess your peers. This is necessary though because you need the feedback to be able to produce the next part of your digital story.

The first three weeks only took me a couple of hours each but week 4 is putting the digital story together and publishing it which took me several hours. Most of that time was spent looking for images to use so if I had produced my own it might have been quicker. For those of you who are artistically gifted or handy with a camera it might take less time.

The resources are certainly the best bit of this course. I learnt how to use search tools in Google to find content that has a creative commons licence for sharing and/or modification, and how to filter image sizes in Google searches. I have also been introduced to some websites, software and online tools that will be useful to me in my work.

I did learn a bit about storytelling that I will be able to apply to scenario development, and I can certainly see the potential for digital stories as an introduction to a scenario. I got what I wanted from the course, plus the bonus resources and Google tips so overall I am happy with the outcome. I just wish the videos had a bit more energy and enthusiasm to them.

If you would like to see the digital story I created it can be viewed here:

Kirrian Steer

La Trobe University


MOOC review - Teaching and assessing clinical skills

Coursera/ University of Michigan

Teaching and Assessing Clinical Skills is offered on Coursera from University of Michigan and the next course begins on October 5 2015. It runs for 6 weeks and you will need to spend 3-5 hours per week on it.

I completed this course earlier in 2015 and was very impressed with the material on orienting learners and on giving feedback. I think this course will be valuable to anyone involved in supervising students on placement, supervising new graduates, and teaching undergraduates.

The content in this course is based on medical education but is still highly relevant to all health professions. It is suitable for educators of all levels. 


MOOC review - Instructional methods in health professionals education

Offered by: Coursera/ University of Michigan

This was the first MOOC I ever completed, back in August of 2013. It has been repeated each year since then, and will be running again in 2015 starting October 5th.

This course is great for those involved in designing education for health profession students or professional development activities for health professionals.

It starts with developing learning objectives and then moves through different instructional methods, such as simulation, and matching the instructional method to the learning objective to achieve the best results.

One of the most interesting parts of this course is sharing strategies with other health professionals around the world and sharing ideas for engaging learners and improving delivery.

This course is relevant for technicians and educators. It runs for 8 weeks and the recommended time is 6-8 hours per week, although I found I didn’t need this much time when I completed it. 


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