4 – Getting Started in Simulation Research

Read widely and join the conversation

You’ve got your sim program up and running. The sessions are regular and you’ve managed to find a time when the doctors and nurses can both come. You’ve mastered the technical stuff well enough and you’ve run some cracker scenarios. Your debriefing is … well….. getting better….
During your performance review with your department head, she says that you really ought to be publishing some of this stuff – “it’s great”, she says. “I’d like to see 1 or 2 papers from you in the next 12 months. And it would get admin off our backs if you could prove that the sim session are worth the money with some evidence”
You wander off excited at the possibilities. You really want to demonstrate the effect of your sims, and start planning an RCT where one group of registrars does a sim and the other group just does a paper case. You’re not sure what should be the outcome measure……..

006_add-website-launch-monash-conference-centre_20150316Margaret Bearman (@margaret_bea) was our special guest for this month’s episode. She is the course convenor of the Grad Cert in Clinical Simulation at Monash University in Melbourne, and Deputy Director of the NHET sim program (listen also to our Pause and Discuss on this program)

Margaret’s first piece of advice was to read widely; to think about how our scholarly work can contribute to ‘the research conversation’. This means we can see what others have done, how they did it, and where the gaps and new questions are. Margaret credited the concept of this conversation to Lorelei Lingard, who has also a written wonderful series on academic writing well worth reading for budding manuscript authors.


The journals recommended were:

Plus general health professional education journals like The Clinical Teacher

Various experts / research summits have also resulted in publications on current opportunities and priorities in healthcare research ( and here)

Acquiring and refining research skills was the next recommendation. Our ‘positivist’ world view (think hypothesis testing, RCTs etc) that many clinicians share may not prepare us well for all the methods that are needed for the current research questions in healthcare simulation. Those interested might consider looking at approaches like realist evaluation.

A range of strategies was suggested including courses (including broader health professional educational research skills), mentors and collaboration, using library resources, and conference workshops/ sessions (like this one by William McGaghie planned for Sim Health in September this year).

Margaret also shared some of her current work as an example of the elements of putting a research project together. Thanks again to Margaret Bearman for such an insightful and informed perspective.