Simulation is a valuable tool used to educate and train health professionals. Where simulation involves models that are intended to replicate clinical or technical tasks, there are gaps in our understanding of what makes a simulator seem real to the learner.
Simulator realism is important in establishing a scenario that learners can embrace. This helps enhance participant engagement and create a safe context for simulation-based learning.
Knowing which features of a simulator enhance a user’s perception of realism and performance is valuable when planning simulator design, or choosing between simulators to use in training.
Mater researchers Dr Erin Wilson, Dr Sarah Janssens, and Associate Professor Mike Beckman have published an article on the realism of gynaecological simulation. They have developed a questionnaire to assess the realism of simulators for gynaecological procedures.
The aim of the research was to investigate how different elements of simulator design contribute to a user’s impression of realism and performance.
Three intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) simulators were selected for comparison. Doctors of varying experience performed an IUCD insertion on each of the three models and used the questionnaire to rate the realism and importance of each aspect of the simulators.
They found no significant relationship between a user’s experience and overall realism scores, demonstrating that different experience levels did not change how realistic participants found the simulators.
The designed questionnaire was able to discriminate between the models for perceived simulator realism. “Despite the three simulators being very different in their look and feel, the anatomy (structure) of the simulator was not rated as highly as its function”, said A/Prof Beckmann. The team hopes that findings from this study may inform better simulator design, focused more on function than structure. The team also anticipates that their more simplified tool for assessing user perceptions of simulator realism will be of interest to other researchers in this field.