Oct. 1, 2018

Ensuring patient safety through simulation education

Dr. Sandra Goldsworthy's research is focused on recognition and response to the deteriorating patient, reducing medication errors and improving health team communication
Dr. Sandra Goldsworthy, associate professor and team members Dave Patterson and Krista Wollny
Dr. Sandra Goldsworthy, associate professor and team members Dave Patterson and Krista Wollny Colleen De Neve

How does simulation save lives? How can simulation be utilized to recognize and respond to a deteriorating patient? How can we reduce the incidence of medication errors? For Sandra Goldsworthy, the answer to some of these research questions starts and ends with building competence and confidence among practitioners and students. Her program of research explores the impact of simulation education and the most effective ways to integrate simulation and technology in the classroom and in the lab, which ultimately helps to saves lives.

“In terms of medical errors in acute care settings, number one is medication error. In addition, ineffective communication between health-care practitioners and failure to recognize a patient who is deteriorating are key areas we want to focus simulation strategies on,” she says.

Goldsworthy’s simulation interventions use a blended approach of modalities such as high-fidelity human simulators, standardized patient actors or virtual simulation technologies. Her research team measures students’ competence, teamwork skills and confidence in approaching specific situations before and after they encounter simulation.

“What I have found is that students have significant increases in knowledge and confidence in responding to critical patient situations such as a patient with no pulse, one who isn’t breathing or one having a major hemorrhage,” she says. “It’s all about preparing our students for transition and readiness for practice. The ultimate outcome is preparing practitioners (new nurses) to provide the safest and highest quality of patient care in practice.”

Goldsworthy and her team are designing and leading national and international multi-site collaborative simulation research projects. She is also collaborating with nurse educators and researchers from across Canada and abroad to integrate the newest evidence-based findings into the UCalgary nursing curriculum.

What's next: Next steps for simulation research are to focus on the impact of simulation related to improving specific patient outcomes.