New RCSI Chair of Simulation will advance the global growth in simulation-based education

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Leading healthcare simulation educator and scholar Professor Walter Eppich has been appointed Chair of Simulation at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Building on RCSI’s significant investment in simulation, Professor Eppich will lead the University’s interdisciplinary Centre of Simulation Education and Research (RCSI SIM) in informing the global growth in experiential simulation-based learning in healthcare and other training and education sectors.

Professor Eppich, who joins RCSI from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois, will also build the University’s capacity to improve patient safety and care through simulation which is embedded across RCSI’s curricula.

Learning taking place in the actual practice environment can be stressful for learners and offers limited opportunities for feedback. Within high-stake sectors, such as healthcare, a low level of tolerance for errors inhibits learners’ ability to grow their understanding and confidence in workplace settings. Simulation-based experiential learning allows learners to experience and learn from both error and success. Simulation positively impacts learners’ knowledge, skills and behaviours, as well as outcomes assessed in real-world settings.

While initially rooted in the aviation and medical education spheres, simulation-based learning has widespread application to all training and education sectors where excellent communication skills are paramount, including, for example, law, HR, teacher education and call centre management. Professor Eppich is leading a HEA-funded project to translate key learnings and innovations from sectors with more advanced integration of simulation-based strategies, such as healthcare, and apply them to higher education more broadly.

Professor Eppich said: “I am thrilled to join a leading global institution that combines tradition and excellence in education with state-of-the-art innovation. The cutting-edge facilities at 26 York Street embody an institutional commitment to healthcare simulation and preparing learners across a spectrum of professions and training levels to provide outstanding and compassionate team-based patient care. In particular, I look forward to advancing our field through collaborative research not only within RCSI but also with Irish, European and international partners.”

Professor Cathal Kelly, RCSI CEO, said: “As a dedicated health sciences university, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that the next generation of healthcare professionals have the requisite knowledge and skills to thrive and make a meaningful contribution to healthcare in Ireland and around the world. Our investment in opening Europe’s largest clinical simulation centre ensures that we can continue to graduate healthcare professionals with superior clinical skills.

“I warmly welcome Professor Eppich to RCSI and I am excited to see the advances he and the RCSI SIM team will make over the coming years in providing our students and trainees with a next-generation learning environment and in contributing to the global advancement of simulated learning.”

Professor Walter Eppich, Chair of Simulation at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences

RCSI SIM is a vibrant interdisciplinary centre of health professions education. Over 20 staff deliver programmes from undergraduate through advanced postgraduate simulation education. RCSI SIM incorporates the National Surgical and Clinical Skills Centre where professionals and trainees can master their skills in our multipurpose training facility with a fully functioning operating theatre.

RCSI’s award-winning simulation centre contains many elements of a real hospital setting, with inpatient rooms, outpatients’ clinical settings, birthing suite and a full operating theatre, emergency and trauma facility. Students are trained and debriefed using structured and repeatable teaching models in a safe learning environment so they can develop their skills before engaging with real patients in the hospital setting.

Prior to joining RCSI, Walter Eppich, MD, PhD directed the Feinberg Academy of Medical Educators at Northwestern University. He served on the Board of Directors of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare from January 2012 to December 2014 and practiced pediatric emergency medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

In 2018, Professor Eppich earned a PhD in Health Professions Education from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His research programme uses qualitative methodologies to study conversational learning through debriefing, workplace interactions and team reflection. He collaborates with psychologists to study teamwork effectiveness in extreme environments and has travelled to Antarctica to perform field observations and interview research teams.