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CPSI Share                                                  
11/28/2012 5:00 PM

​​Role playing helps healthcare providers rehearse for patient safety

Taking their cue from real-life patient safety situations and events, healthcare students and practitioners in Manitoba are using role playing to learn safety lessons. Learn to be Safe – A Simulation Learning Experience was developed by the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety (MIPS) to enhance effective communication and collaboration within healthcare teams, including patients and their families, to improve patient safety. Two scenarios have been developed and a toolkit provides character briefings, character photos, props and resources for participants to re-enact the simulations.

Dr. Harold Nyhof, Head of Family Medicine Services at the Northern Regional Health Authority in Thompson, Manitoba is utilizing the “Gene’s Story” scenario as a powerful tool to facilitate learning in apology and disclosure. Dr. Nyhof delivers the session to groups of eight to 13 healthcare providers from interdisciplinary teams, where he asks the participants to step outside their current role and take on a character that is often outside of their comfort level. Dr. Nyhof reinforces the value of including frontline healthcare providers on the interdisciplinary teams.

“The participants become very engaged and the learnings provide multiple perspectives to learn from,” says Dr. Nyhof.  “At first the participants often say that it is the physician’s role to apologize, but they quickly learn that this is a team approach and not to assign blame. The discussions reinforce how to approach an apology and who needs to be at the table.”

Susan Lessard-Friesen, Deputy Registrar of the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association is utilizing the “Maureen’s Journey” scenario in the classroom for 4th year pharmacy students to highlight the underlying causes of poor communication and the difficulties that can arise around shared decision-making. The simulation session will be rolled into a continuing professional development program for pharmacists in the spring of 2013.

Lessard-Friesen says that you get diverse perspectives when you ask healthcare providers to take on a different role and how a conscious or unconscious bias can cloud their perceptions. “When a pharmacist is asked to play the role of a nurse or physician, you can see how conflict develops within the team and how that results in barriers to communication. The participants learn about communication and ways to improve communication, and ways to address conflict within a team. When we ask the participants to take on the role of the patient, it brings a new dimension to their learning and reinforces the role of the patient within the healthcare team.”

The Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety established a working group from a wide array of health disciplines to develop the Learn to be Safe Simulation Learning Experience. Developing a program based on simulation was relatively new to most of the working group members, but from the start they decided it had to mimic situations that were as close to real life as possible and it had to be fun, interactive and involve interdisciplinary groups. The scenarios were pre-tested with key healthcare providers and tweaked to replicate realistic situations and events. The program materials are based on the safety competencies developed by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, interprofessional principles and competencies recommended by the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative, and required organizational practices of Accreditation Canada.

“To improve healthcare safety, we need to encourage teamwork, effective communication and patient and family-centred care,” says Laurie Thompson, Executive Director of MIPS.  “Patient safety is not something we learn once; it is something that we continually need to work on to improve.  The kit focuses on opportunities to practice and learn important safety lessons.”

Thompson and Lessard-Friesen are involved in a network of partner organizations that is promoting interprofessional continuing professional development for health professions in Manitoba.  The goal of the Interprofessional Continuing Professional Development Network for the Health Professions in Manitoba (iCPD Manitoba) is to plan, develop and deliver competency-based interprofessional CPD programming to meet the learning needs of health professionals and facilitate the emergence of collaborative patient-centred care.

“The concept of participating in interprofessional education opportunities to facilitate the provision of collaborative patient-centred care is not well understood by healthcare providers, especially those in community practice,” says Lessard-Friesen. “Evidence exists to demonstrate that interprofessional collaborative practice improves patient health outcomes and safety; however, continuing professional development programming continues to be designed and developed predominantly for only one health profession. The bottom line is, if we are going to work better together to improve patient outcomes and safety, we need to learn together and it is programs like Learn to be Safe that will help us to do that.”

The Learn to be Safe Simulation Learning Experience is a valuable tool for educators in healthcare profession education, healthcare service delivery and continuing professional development.  For more information, visit, or contact the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety at (204) 927-6477.