Background: Simulation is frequently used to recreate many of the crises encountered in patient care settings. Teams learn to manage these crises in an environment that maximizes their learning experiences and eliminates the potential for patient harm. By designing simulation scenarios that include conditions associated with diagnostic errors, teams can experience how their decisions can lead to errors. The purpose of this study was to assess how trauma teams (TrT) and pediatric rapid response teams (RRT) managed scenarios that included a diagnostic error.
Methods: We developed four scenarios that would require TrT and pediatric RRT to manage an error in diagnosis. The two trauma scenarios (spinal cord injury and tracheobronchial tear) were designed to not respond to the heuristic management approach frequently used in trauma settings. The two pediatric scenarios (foreign body aspiration and coarctation of the aorta) had an incorrect diagnosis on admission. Two raters independently scored the scenarios using a rating system based on how teams managed the diagnostic process (search, establish and confirm a new diagnosis and initiate therapy based on the new diagnosis).
Results: Twenty-one TrT and 17 pediatric rapid response managed 51 scenarios. All of the teams questioned the initial diagnosis. The teams were able to establish and confirm a new diagnosis in 49% of the scenarios (25 of 51). Only 23 (45%) teams changed their management of the patient based on the new diagnosis.
Conclusions: Simulation can be used to recreate conditions that engage teams in the diagnostic process. In contrast to most instruction about diagnostic error, teams learn through realistic experiences and receive timely feedback about their decision-making skills. Based on the findings in this pilot study, the majority of teams would benefit from an education intervention designed to improve their diagnostic skills.
Keywords: diagnostic process; education; patient safety; rapid response teams; simulation; trauma teams.