Patient Care

Simulation Training, Coaching, and Cue Cards Improve Delirium Care

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Using a simulation center and standardized patients (SPs), teams of interdisciplinary care providers practiced communication techniques and recommended treatment strategies with the help of a delirium coach. Sessions were videotaped. This intervention, which used simulation training, was supported by VA grant T-21, to reduce institutionalization and promote patient-centered care.

In a clinical context, simulation involves activities that mimick the reality of the clinical environment, including physical symptoms, communication patterns, and critical decision making. Trained SPs have the unique advantage of providing interactive practice and immediate feedback in a safe, controlled setting.30

Standardized patient programs provide learners with real-life interactions for the development and practice of interpersonal communication and clinical skills. In a laboratory setting, SP programs use role-play scenarios that allow learners to practice complex assessment and communication skills. Standardized patients are effective in teaching clinical, interviewing, and communication skills to learners from a variety of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, dental, and law.31 Standardized patients also provide a safe, supportive environment conducive to learning and standardized assessment.

Standardized patients can serve as practice models and participate in sophisticated assessment and feedback of learners’ abilities and services. Interacting with SPs gives learners a chance to practice clinical and interpersonal skills with an emphasis on communication before meeting actual patients. After interacting with an SP, a learner receives feedback from a preceptor and/or the learner’s peers. The SP also may be asked to provide brief feedback—a component of the SP training process. Allowing time for feedback is an integral part of student learning.

For this QI project, the delirium team used the Mt. Sinai Skills and Simulation Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The facility focuses on creative, innovative continuing learning for health care providers at all levels and is certified by the American College of Surgeons as a level 1 Comprehensive Accredited Education Institute.

After a literature review and several brainstorming sessions, the delirium team tailored case studies to veterans to simulate the intervention and train SPs for the delirium program. During training, SPs reviewed scenarios, engaged in practice sessions, and answered questions. Several SPs were familiar with the behavior of delirious patients from personal experience.

The goals of the program were to increase knowledge of delirium signs and symptoms as a medical condition that requires immediate attention; increase competency in administering CAM and in documenting its results; increase interdisciplinary communication; and increase knowledge using nonpharmacologic interventions for sensory enhancement and agitation. Enhanced interdisciplinary communication was accomplished during the simulation by assigning individuals from different disciplines to work in teams. To maximize the use of resources and limit participants’ time away from the clinical area, the administration planned and supported a daylong program that included didactic education, videos, group work sessions, and the simulation sessions with resource team members as coaches.


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