Teaching professionalism in graduate medical education: What is the role of simulation?

Surgery. 2016 Sep;160(3):552-64. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2016.03.026. Epub 2016 May 17.


Background: We systematically reviewed the literature concerning simulation-based teaching and assessment of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education professionalism competencies to elucidate best practices and facilitate further research.

Methods: A systematic review of English literature for "professionalism" and "simulation(s)" yielded 697 abstracts. Two independent raters chose abstracts that (1) focused on graduate medical education, (2) described the simulation method, and (3) used simulation to train or assess professionalism. Fifty abstracts met the criteria, and seven were excluded for lack of relevant information. The raters, 6 professionals with medical education, simulation, and clinical experience, discussed 5 of these articles as a group; they calibrated coding and applied further refinements, resulting in a final, iteratively developed evaluation form. The raters then divided into 2 teams to read and assess the remaining articles. Overall, 15 articles were eliminated, and 28 articles underwent final analysis.

Results: Papers addressed a heterogeneous range of professionalism content via multiple methods. Common specialties represented were surgery (46.4%), pediatrics (17.9%), and emergency medicine (14.3%). Sixteen articles (57%) referenced a professionalism framework; 14 (50%) incorporated an assessment tool; and 17 (60.7%) reported debriefing participants, though in limited detail. Twenty-three (82.1%) articles evaluated programs, mostly using subjective trainee reports.

Conclusion: Despite early innovation, reporting of simulation-based professionalism training and assessment is nonstandardized in methods and terminology and lacks the details required for replication. We offer minimum standards for reporting of future professionalism-focused simulation training and assessment as well as a basic framework for better mapping proper simulation methods to the targeted domain of professionalism.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Humans
  • Professionalism / education*
  • Simulation Training*