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Simulation is an integral part of education. The term has various interpretations, but in this context, it is most commonly described as a teaching mode that "replicates a situation or environment to allow individuals to experience a representation of a real event for the purpose of practice, learning, evaluation, testing or to gain an understanding of systems or human actions" (Lateef, 2010).
What differentiates EMS education from other courses in higher education is that it provides vocational training, producing professionals who have substantial knowledge in their field and are experienced in its practical application. EMS education can be broadly split into two domains –theory or knowledge and psychomotor skills. This practical application of knowledge is where simulation-based learning fits into EMS education.
There's a long tradition of using simulation in EMS education. Our goal here is to help people understand the vital role of using simulations to teach and explore best practices to integrate it within the system. We fail to understand here that the entire process of integrating simulation is often considered to be the most thorough process and utilizes a lot of the resources and time that would otherwise not be available. It is fundamental that the EMS educators meet the needs of the ever-evolving organizations and learners without their learning experience being compromised and then leveraging simulation to improve the transfer, retention, and application of knowledge.
Implementing simulation within the education system has brought about numerous benefits. One of the most profound benefits it has brought about is the standardization and consistent replication of various patient conditions. This has helped combat many limitations of clinical opportunities, and the constant recurrence of patients' conditions allows the students to be able to develop their skills without subjecting actual patients to risk. It also has the added advantage of reducing paramedic students' error rates while simultaneously improving their knowledge and skill performance. The benefits of simulation-based learning are because conventional clinical learning experiences heavily rely on chance encounters.
A study by McKenna et al., (2015) found that EMS simulation is effective but is not used by programs as often as it could be for educational benefits. Programs must have the appropriate equipment, faculty training, and resources. While there are standardized resources to train nursing faculty on how to use simulation, and generic simulation instruction competencies for healthcare, no specific framework exists specifically geared to guide simulation best practices in the unique prehospital environment. The EMS community should collaborate to provide that framework so that the three-legged stool of simulation will stand firmly on a solid pedagogical foundation to serve as an essential tool for paramedic student learning (McKenna et al., 2015)
The most frequently reported purpose of simulation use among the paramedic programs that responded was skills instruction, with 89% of programs reporting they used it for that reason often or all of the time. Only 2% of programs indicated they never or rarely use simulation to teach skills. (McKenna et al., 2015)
It has shown results that it also helps deepen understanding by enabling linking different aspects of the theory to a real-life situation. Critical thinking and analyzing it is put into practice. It is the only way for students to gain practical experience, which is essential to the EMS program. A vital aspect of the benefits gained from simulation integration is that the students gain the self-confidence to manage real-life situations. In this scenario, confidence is directly linked to competence, thus ensuring that the paramedics are competent enough to deal with real-life situations.
This confidence is further reflected by the fact that when students are more comfortable in the situation they have been placed in, they perform competently, boost their morale, develop their clinical decision-making abilities, and exert their autonomy.
As far as building their confidence is concerned, that's sorted; however, when the patients see these paramedics demonstrating this confidence, their trust within the system is gained. Paramedic students who take part in education programs involving simulations perform fewer medical mistakes in clinical settings and are able to better develop their critical thinking and clinical decision-making skills. For these reasons, we recommend simulations, which represent an interactive learning method, are rendered more common in institutions providing EMS education.
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Lateef F. (2010). Simulation-based learning: Just like the real thing. Journal of emergencies, trauma, and shock, 3(4), 348–352. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-2700.70743
McKenna, K. D., Carhart, E., Bercher, D., Spain, A., Todaro, J., & Freel, J. (2015). Simulation Use in Paramedic Education Research (SUPER): A Descriptive Study. Prehospital emergency care, 19(3), 432–440. https://doi.org/10.3109/10903127.2014.995845