A Champion for Medical Simulation
Written on October 18, 2016 by Greg Podolej
There’s a model in higher education used to describe different levels of assessment called Miller’s Pyramid. The idea is that educational objectives should go beyond recalling and understanding facts and basic concepts, giving learners the ability to apply knowledge; analyze and evaluate processes, procedures and principles; and eventually create new or original work.
Medical simulation fits in the higher levels of this pyramid because it allows physicians and nurses-in-training to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it in a realistic, but safe way. To me, it’s an essential part of medical education. And even now as an emergency medicine physician at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, I strive to learn more about simulation to not only demonstrate its benefits but create new ways to utilize simulation to improve health care.
I recently joined Jump Simulation as part of a two-year fellowship where I will learn to be a health educator and how to make simulation a productive tool. It’s my future goal to understand how to make a unique environment such as Jump Sim work and apply that knowledge in rural areas that aren’t typically exposed to centers like these.
Finding My Path
My mother was a nurse, but getting into the health care industry was never a given for me. In fact, I initially resisted the field because I wanted to pave my own career path. A couple of mission service trips overseas opened my eyes to the importance of medicine. I was exposed to so many people who don’t have access to health care and were unable to live normal lives. I knew I had to go to medical school to change that.
What I learned in medical school is that the emergency room is a great place to master the art of taking care of very sick people. It’s a place where decisions matter and time is of the essence. Learning life-saving procedures at the bedside isn’t the best option. It was in the ER where I came to discover the benefits of training for medical emergencies in a simulated environment, so we don’t put patients at risk.
I gained much more experiential knowledge through various simulation cases than I ever did reading a textbook, doing homework or taking a test because those cases were so formative for me. An internship with Dr. John “Voz” Vozenilek during his time with Northwestern University’s Simulation Center peaked my interest even future.
It was Voz who taught me that deliberate practice makes technically competent doctors. Working with him helped me understand how using simulation to repetitively do something until you get it right makes you comfortable and safe dealing with patients, leading to fewer complications and better health care delivery.
Gaining Simulation Expertise
As part of my Fellowship here at Jump, I am working with various departments to identify gaps in knowledge among medical students and residents. The goal is to create well-thought-out educational interventions that could include classroom or simulation work. I’m also learning to create and implement simulations and assess learners.
One case I’m partnering with OSF Saint Francis Medical Center nurses on is to produce simulations around new American Heart Association guidelines for maternal cardiac arrest. Sometimes a C-section is needed if a soon-to-be mother goes into cardiac arrest. We are generating scenarios that will train residents and nurses to work as a team as they deal with that situation. I’m also working to make simulation scenarios for pediatric and behavioral health cases.
As someone who’s gone through medical school and residency, I understand why teaching hospitals and universities around the world are pushing to make simulation a rite of passage for anyone entering the field. There’s certainly a place in education for classroom learning, but there’s nothing like actually performing medical procedures or dealing with critically ill patients in a realistic, safe environment. The ability to practice until you achieve your educational goals instills learner confidence.
That’s why I’m excited that my simulation fellowship is taking place at Jump. It’s a unique space, especially with its connection to OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. I believe Jump Sim is poised to make a big difference in health care, and I can’t conceive of a better place to learn the trade than right here. I’m really fortunate to be a part of this experience, learn from leaders in the medical education field, and put my ideas into use.
Dr. Greg Podolej is a Simulation Fellow at Jump Simulation, helping to develop and implement various educational interventions using simulation technology. He interfaces with a variety of learners including residents and medical students with the goal of expanding, diversifying, and improving simulation—based curriculum available to the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. This curriculum is also used to provide feedback and promote development of simulation educators as well as characterize the overall educational portfolio at Jump Simulation.
Dr. Podolej is an emergency physician by training and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in health professions education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.