The idea comes from anesthesiology training: In simulated surgical environments operating on a test dummy, the patient dies. The team has to give the bad news actors posing as the patient’s family.
“Despite the fact that they realize that the relative of the simulated patient is just an actor ...,” researchers found, “the requirement to explain to the ‘family’ what has just transpired is a major challenge. These sessions are often highly emotional and are moving to observe.”
When you conduct high-stakes training, you can apply this same idea by making the simulated consequences as similar as possible to the actual consequences. Examples:
It sounds brutal, and it can be, but in high-stakes environments, these simulated exercises will hammer home the actual consequences. Two immediate benefits:
Sometimes, simulations will show people they’re in the wrong job. In mine-rescue simulations, some participants got lost in the (non-toxic) smoke. They got confused, had to be helped, and decided mine rescue work wasn’t for them.
How can you make it work? Consider the following steps:
There’s nothing that can be done about it. Make it clear that you’re concerned with mistakes that are under their control, but the simulation can remind them that not everything is.
Learning the difference helps humanize the training and will strengthen them in the field.
Source: Gaba, et al., “Simulated-based training in anesthesia crisis resource management (ACRM): A decade of experience.” Simulation & Gaming, Vol. 32, No. 2, June 2001, Pp. 175-193.
Stephen J. Meyer is CEO and Director of Learning and Development at the Rapid Learning Institute. Prior to starting the Rapid Learning Institute and its parent company Business 21 in 2002, Steve was the Director of Publishing at The Hay Group, a leading HR, benefits and compensation consulting firm. Meyer received his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and has a Masters degree from the University of California, San Diego. Follow him on Twitter.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user Army Medicine.