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Ben Lawton: Simulation Driving Change at DFTB17


This talk was recorded live on the second day of science at DFTB17 in Brisbane.

Who is Ben Lawton? The one-time member of the Virgin cabin crew left the high life to make a difference. By day (and occasionally night), he works as a paediatric emergency consultant at Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. He is also one of the founders of an amazing paediatric blog.

In this talk, Ben explains how simulation can drive change. With better hair than Limahl, he reminds us that we shouldn’t be doing simulation for simulation’s sake but to drive change and to improve patient care.

Healthcare professionals universally aim to provide the best possible care to their patients. This intrinsic drive sets the foundation for designing effective healthcare education programs. In his insightful talk at DFTB17, Ben Lawton highlights the importance of simulation-based training in driving change within healthcare education. By harnessing the power of simulation, educators can create transformative learning experiences that enable healthcare providers to improve their skills, adapt to complexity, and enhance patient care.

Recognizing the Intrinsic Value of Education

At the heart of effective healthcare education is recognising its intrinsic value for learners. While behaviourism – the idea that external stimuli drive behaviour – works well for training puppies and basic learning, it falls short in the complex world of healthcare. As learners progress in expertise, the context becomes pivotal in shaping decision-making and actions. This complexity requires a more nuanced and reflective approach to education.

Complexity in Healthcare Practice

There is a difference between baking a cake, sending a rocket into space, and raising a child. While baking a cake and launching a rocket have well-defined procedures, raising a child is far more complex due to its unpredictability and context dependency. Healthcare practice, much like raising a child, exists in the realm of complexity. Standardized approaches and strict adherence to protocols may not always be suitable, as patient care often necessitates adaptive, context-driven decision-making.

Continuous Improvement Cycles

Complex environments require continuous improvement cycles, where actions are iteratively refined based on experience and reflection. Lawton emphasizes the value of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle in this context. This cycle involves experiencing, reflecting, abstracting, and applying knowledge, creating a perpetual learning loop. This iterative process enables healthcare providers to adapt and grow in complex situations.

Embracing Variation and Multiple Truths

Lawton delves into “work as imagined” versus “work as done,” highlighting that healthcare professionals often deviate from prescribed procedures to optimize patient care. In healthcare, individual variation is a strength, enabling professionals to adapt to complex situations. Acknowledging and embracing this variation rather than seeking to eliminate it is essential.

Measuring the Right Version of Truth

Healthcare education faces the challenge of measuring the “workers as done” truth – what healthcare professionals actually do in complex situations. Lawton raises the concern of using proxies like certificates to measure competence, emphasizing that these measures may not accurately reflect the intricacies of real-world practice. To foster true improvement, education programs must align with the complexities of healthcare and prioritize intrinsic learning over simplistic metrics.

Continuous Improvement for Patient Care

The primary purpose of healthcare education is to continuously improve patient care. Simulation-based training serves as a powerful tool to achieve this goal. Simulation enables learners to experience, reflect, adapt, and apply their skills by providing scenarios that mirror real-world practice’s complexities. Ultimately, simulation becomes a vehicle for driving transformative change in healthcare practice.

Ben Lawton’s insightful talk highlights the importance of simulation-based education in driving positive change in healthcare practice. Healthcare professionals’ desire to provide the best care possible is the driving force behind effective education programs. By recognizing the nuances of complex healthcare environments, embracing variation, and prioritizing intrinsic learning, educators can harness simulation to create meaningful and continuous improvement cycles. As healthcare education evolves, simulation will continue to be an essential tool in driving change and enhancing patient care.

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