Use of Immersive Learning and Simulation Techniques to Teach and Research Opioid Prescribing Practices

Pain Med. 2019 Mar 1;20(3):456-463. doi: 10.1093/pm/pny171.


Introduction: Unsafe opioid prescribing practices to treat acute and chronic pain continue to contribute to the opioid overdose crisis in the United States, a growing public health emergency that harms patients and their communities. Poor opioid prescribing practices stem in part from a lack of education and skills training surrounding pain and opioid management.

Methods: As part of the Clinical Pain Medicine Fellowship at Stanford University, physicians were given the opportunity to participate in a pilot program to practice opioid management in a live, simulated interaction. Twenty-seven physician trainees participated in the simulation with a live, standardized patient actor. Before beginning the simulation, participants were given a detailed patient history that included the patient's risk for opioid abuse. They were also provided with relevant risk evaluation and mitigation (REM) tools. All simulation interactions were video-recorded and coded by two independent reviewers. A detailed coding scheme was developed before video analysis, and an inter-rater reliability score showed substantial agreement between reviewers.

Results: Contrary to expectations, many of the observed performances by trainees contained aspects of unsafe opioid prescribing, given the patient history. Many trainees did not discuss their patient's aberrant behaviors related to opioids or the patient's risk for opioid abuse. Marked disparities were also observed between the trainees' active patient interactions and their written progress notes.

Discussion: This simulation addresses a pressing need to further educate, train, and provide point-of-care tools for providers prescribing opioids. We present our experience and preliminary findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*


  • Analgesics, Opioid