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Simulation Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published:April 03, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecns.2020.03.010
      As the world continues to respond to the global pandemic due to COVID-19, the way in which we function in the health care environment is rapidly changing. For those who are able, they are working remotely and doing their part to reduce the spread of the virus. For our colleagues who provide direct care on the front lines, they are working tirelessly with the public and are assessing and treating people's physical and mental health needs. They are working in the community, in clinics, and in hospitals, and anywhere else they are needed. “Thank you” is not nearly a strong enough word to convey our gratitude.
      When it became apparent that we were dealing with something of global proportions, I heard from many individuals how they were using simulation to prepare for the potential of an outbreak. As cases began to appear in various cities and communities, many hospitals were either providing or asking for in situ simulation to be available to assist the front-line providers prepare for potential outbreaks. In my home city, hospitals that may not have the physical or human capacity to provide simulation were reaching out to simulationists from the academic institutions to provide this education. I have heard similar stories from colleagues across the country. In situ simulations were taking place in many hospitals across the city, across the country, and around the world as we all began to see the magnitude of what was happening and the need to be prepared. Many hospitals see the value of simulation; however, many may not have the resources to conduct simulation. In reaching out to local simulationists, simulation activities specifically related to COVID-19 preparedness were taking place.
      In education institutions, the pandemic initially created issues with clinical placements, and ultimately, led to the closure of entire universities and colleges. Clinical practice was being shifted to the simulation environment, and when that no longer was an option, virtual simulations began to take place. Organizations and academic institutions that had previously created their own computer-based simulations started to freely share their resources. As I'm sure many of you can attest, the inundation of emails from vendors and producers of virtual simulations started, initially as a trickle, and then a torrent as they attempted to assist education programs work through providing class, laboratories, simulation, and clinical in alternative formats. Although some educators have been working with virtual or computer-based simulation for years, it was surreal to see how many were interested in this format in such a short period. And in this time of crisis, the sharing of resources was welcomed.
      Frankly, everything that we have seen in education and the clinical environment is surreal. In mere weeks, we have changed the way we teach and practice, and I would like to believe that simulationists around the globe have been instrumental in assisting in coping and adapting to these changes. Simulationists in the clinical environment are preparing front-line practitioners, and in the education setting, they are doing what they can to continue to provide practical education. We are sharing resources, time, equipment, and ideas to assist educators and clinicians. We are using simulation to its potential to prepare students and practitioners for the clinical environment, which is the primary purpose of simulation.
      We will see an end to this. And when we do, education and clinical institutions will debrief and look back to determine how prepared they were, what they were missing, what they could have done differently, and what they need to be better prepared should another pandemic occur. Just as simulation was instrumental in the short-term during the pandemic, I anticipate that we will see more hospitals including simulation as part of their pandemic preparedness. I anticipate that we will see more virtual simulations being part of curricula in the health professions. As a simulationist, you have a desirable skill set and can assist institutions in being prepared. If you are a simulationist who is currently self-isolating and working from home, now is the time to think about how you can use your skills in the coming months and years in both the academic and clinical setting. And to those who are in the hospital setting, know that you have a community that is supporting you and that we will continue to support you in the long term.
      To all the health care practitioners, educators, and simulationists around the globe, a huge “thank-you” and stay safe!