SimZones: An Organizational Innovation for Simulation Programs and Centers

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Abstract

The complexity and volume of simulation-based learning programs have increased dramatically over the last decade, presenting several major challenges for those who lead and manage simulation programs and centers. The authors present five major issues affecting the organization of simulation programs: (1) supporting both single- and double-loop learning experiences; (2) managing the training of simulation teaching faculty; (3) optimizing the participant mix, including individuals, professional groups, teams, and other role-players, to ensure learning; (4) balancing in situ, node-based, and center-based simulation delivery; and (5) organizing simulation research and measuring value. They then introduce the SimZones innovation, a system of organization for simulation-based learning, and explain how it can alleviate the problems associated with these five issues.

Simulations are divided into four zones (Zones 0–3). Zone 0 simulations include autofeedback exercises typically practiced by solitary learners, often using virtual simulation technology. Zone 1 simulations include hands-on instruction of foundational clinical skills. Zone 2 simulations include acute situational instruction, such as clinical mock codes. Zone 3 simulations involve authentic, native teams of participants and facilitate team and system development.

The authors also discuss the translation of debriefing methods from Zone 3 simulations to real patient care settings (Zone 4), and they illustrate how the SimZones approach can enable the development of longitudinal learning systems in both teaching and nonteaching hospitals. The SimZones approach was initially developed in the context of the Boston Children’s Hospital Simulator Program, which the authors use to illustrate this innovation in action.

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