Happy people collaborating at a workshop

Connecting, sharing and learning at the RCSI SIMposium

  • Education

In November 2022, the RCSI SIM team organised an interprofessional experiential learning ‘SIMposium’ on communication skills training, with speakers and attendees from across the globe coming together at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin.

Here, Dr Andrea Doyle shares some reflections on themes and learnings from SIMposium, on behalf of the RCSI SIM team:

The aim of the first ever SIMposium was to provide a forum for educators across higher education sectors to exchange evidence-based knowledge and expertise, inform best practice, and develop national and international connections in the area of simulation-based education.

Themes interwoven throughout the day included patient and learner voice, approaches to co-design, and cross-sector simulations to promote interdisciplinary collaborative practice. 

Interprofessional communications skills are critical to professionals across sectors including healthcare, education, social work and law. These domains use experiential learning techniques to train communication skills commonly referred to as simulation. This includes using representations of real-life scenarios to allow individuals and teams to practice key skills with feedback, before engaging with real patients or clients. 

Simulation-based education is characterised by training in professional siloes, globally but particularly in Ireland, which limits cross sector dialogue and innovation. This siloed application of techniques potentially wastes valuable resources and impedes the development of best practice for communication training, resulting in professionals entering the workforce underprepared for work demands. 

To remove costly barriers to curriculum development and share training approaches to improve communication skills for professionals, we must facilitate avenues for open dialogue and knowledge sharing across sectors. 

The research team at RCSI SIM has fostered a network of national and international collaborators through a three-year HEA grant valued at over €1 million in the area of interprofessional communication training in representative sectors in Irish higher education institutes (HEIs).

The SIMposium brought together this diverse group of collaborators and offered the opportunity for attendees to learn about innovative methodologies and practices, igniting a shift towards simulation-based education incorporating a cross sectoral approach.

A diverse group

The SIMposium programme included an esteemed panel of national and international speakers with expertise in simulation-based education and learning.

Virtual and in person presentations covered a range of topics from simulated participant methodology and simulation design approaches, to simulation-based interprofessional communication skills, simulation for health professions, law and, emergency services training. 

Each of the four plenary sessions included an open question and answer segment to encourage discussion and knowledge sharing across sectors, punctuated by networking opportunities.

Knowledge sharing and reflections

An interactive session to discuss and share perspectives and learnings from SIMposium revealed that attendees found the simulated participant (SP) methodology content to be particularly thought provoking.

This prompted an exploration of team-based approaches to SP methodology and, importantly, how including the SP could contribute to improved ways of working with simulated participants in experiential learning contexts. 

The importance of language was also highlighted; the language that is used when referring to SPs and when engaging with SPs. These small changes have the potential to contribute to a cultural change in how SPs are perceived, trained and are engaged within simulation and experiential learning practises.

Content shared about design of simulation-based learning activities sparked a discourse related to the value of a co-design approach; which involves the inclusion of stakeholders; learners, content experts, educators and SPs, to achieve a more tailored approach to designing authentic experiential learning interventions. 

Interprofessional education

The Hugs@Home research team described their application of experiential learning techniques and a co-design process to teach psychological first aid to family members of first responders. This led to a discussion about the application of simulation-based learning techniques to sectors outside healthcare – an inspiring, refreshing and inclusive approach that has the potential to transform outcomes for learners.

Interprofessional education requires a psychologically safe environment to facilitate learning from, with and about others and to overcome siloed approaches to training. A panel discussion about the design, implementation and evaluation of a simulation-based communication skills intervention for professionals in the chain of child safeguarding, provided a contextual example of crossing boundaries through co-design.

The intervention described a collaboration between social workers, healthcare workers and emergency services, and sparked an insightful conversation that acknowledged the complexities of the approach but recognised the net benefits for all those involved including learners, the educational teams, and the communities they serve.

The SIMposium facilitated network building across professional sectors, the sharing of expertise, resources and best practices, and promoted the advancement of experiential learning. We in the RCSI SIM team were inspired by the event and are enthusiastic for the 2023 SIMposium.

The RCSI SIMposium team pose for a photo outside 123 St Stephen's Green

The SIMposium was in part funded by the National University of Ireland, through the Early Career Grant awarded to Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Andrea Doyle, and by the Higher Education Authority-funded programme of research led by Professor Walter Eppich, Chair of the RCSI SIM Centre for Simulation Education and Research.

Andrea DoyleDr Andrea Doyle is a medical physicist, and a postdoctoral researcher at the SIM Centre for Simulation Education and Research at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dublin.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.