On Saturday April 23, 2016 over 80 professionals from the medical laboratory community gathered in Toronto for a unique event. The Simulation and Clinical Placement Forum was hosted by CSMLS to bring together educators, graduates, regulators and stakeholders from across the country to discuss the current and future states of clinical placements and the use of simulated learning.
Canada is facing a serious shortage of medical laboratory technologists (MLTs). About half of all MLTs will be eligible to retire in the next ten years. These shortages are already being felt in our rural and remote communities and the impending retirements will exacerbate this issue. The current supply of new MLT graduates is not sufficient to offset the projected retirement numbers.
A shortage of MLTs has a cascading effect throughout the medical system, as delayed results means delayed treatment. This is undesirable in any situation, but made worse given Canada’s aging population, with increased demand for medical services. Limited clinical placements are the bottleneck in trying to increase the number of new MLTs. Addressing this issue and looking to simulation as a possible solution is key for the profession.
During the forum, there was a review of the data collected from the CSMLS Educator Clinical Placement and Simulation Survey conducted in 2015 and the Recent Graduate Clinical Placement Survey. The information was presented by CSMLS Researcher, Laura Zychla, who commented that overall the current clinical placement system seemed to be working, but when digging below the surface, there are a host of issues at hand.
The one-day event helped facilitate discussion on what is currently happening with clinical placements and how simulation can play a role as a potential solution.
One keynote speaker, Dr. Pam Jeffries PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF is the Dean and Professor at George Washington University School of Nursing, and past- president of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. She presented findings from “The NCSBN National Simulation Study: A Longitudinal, Randomized, Controlled Study Replacing Clinical Hours with Simulation in Prelicensure Nursing Education”, which offers strong evidence supporting the use of simulation in health care education.
The study, which focused on nursing education, found that up to 50% of clinical hours can be substituted as simulation without any difference in the quality of the education outcome. The findings also emphasized that successful simulation programs hinge on a team of dedicated educators, those well-trained in the best practices of theory-based simulation and debriefing methods.
The forum also welcomed Dr. Brian Hodges MD, PhD, FRCPC, and Executive Vice-President Education at the Michener Institute of Education at UHN, the Richard and Elizabeth Currie Chair in Health Professions Education Research, and a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto. Dr. Hodges’ work with simulation has made him an advocate for its use in teaching. He gave examples of simulation success with use of hybrid-simulation, when real life (actors) and simulation (technology) are combined for a fully immersive educational experience.
While both Drs. Hodges and Jeffries spoke on the use and benefits of using simulation in health care education, Dr. Tim Willet of Sim-one spoke about the need to advocate and build a community in support of simulation education.
Sim-one is a not-for-profit organization that connects the simulation community across Canada. Dr. Willet spoke on the need for advocating and advancement of simulation to improve health care education, patient safety and quality improvement.
The participants also heard from a panel of graduates of medical laboratory science programs, a panel of educators and presenters from three health education programs using simulation throughout the course of the day.
These presentations gave insight into how students are learning in and out of the classroom today. They included stories of the positive outcomes of combining simulation and clinical placements experiences.
At the end of the day, participants formed small working groups to discuss, collaborate and provide solutions for some of the biggest questions raised from the day. This provided an opportunity to discuss how to enhance the education programs to better fit the needs of a changing health care and medical laboratory science landscape.
The outcome of the discussions from this event will be gathered and released as a CSMLS whitepaper and will further support research being conducted on the topic of the use of simulation in medical laboratory science education. The event itself is the first phase of this long-term commitment to truly understand and offer solutions to the concerns over clinical placement quality and availability. The next phase will look at understanding these concerns from the employers’ point of view.
CSMLS’ CEO Christine Nielsen closed the forum by posing a question to participants: What can you do? She encouraged everyone to take the conversations from the day and reflect on how they can individually help move forward. CSMLS is committed to continuing this journey and to help keep the conversations going.