A typology of educationally focused medical simulation tools

Med Teach. 2007 Oct;29(8):e243-50. doi: 10.1080/01421590701551185.


Background: The concept of simulation as an educational tool in healthcare is not a new idea but its use has really blossomed over the last few years. This enthusiasm is partly driven by an attempt to increase patient safety and also because the technology is becoming more affordable and advanced.

Aims: Simulation is becoming more commonly used for initial training purposes as well as for continuing professional development, but people often have very different perceptions of the definition of the term simulation, especially in an educational context. This highlights the need for a clear classification of the technology available but also about the method and teaching approach employed. The aims of this paper are to discuss the current range of simulation approaches and propose a clear typology of simulation teaching aids.

Method: Commonly used simulation techniques have been identified and discussed in order to create a classification that reports simulation techniques, their usual mode of delivery, the skills they can address, the facilities required, their typical use, and their pros and cons.

Results: This paper presents a clear classification scheme of educational simulation tools and techniques with six different technological levels. They are respectively: written simulations, three-dimensional models, screen-based simulators, standardized patients, intermediate fidelity patient simulators, and interactive patient simulators. This typology allows the accurate description of the simulation technology and the teaching methods applied. Thus valid comparison of educational tools can be made as to their potential effectiveness and verisimilitude at different training stages.

Conclusions: The proposed typology of simulation methodologies available for educational purposes provides a helpful guide for educators and participants which should help them to realise the potential learning outcomes at different technological simulation levels in relation to the training approach employed. It should also be a useful resource for simulation users who are trying to improve their educational practice.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Professional / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Simulation*
  • Teaching Materials*
  • Terminology as Topic