Simulation Learning Boosts Workplace Safety Training

By the end of training, every First Aid/CPR/AED instructor aims to send his or her students back on the job with all the skills they need to respond to a real-world workplace safety emergency.

By the end of training, every First Aid/CPR/AED instructor aims to send his or her students back on the job with all the skills they need to respond to a real-world workplace safety emergency. But helping students retain that knowledge after they leave the classroom is just as important.

The American Red Cross is providing a cutting-edge tool to help students learn and retain critical safety information with the introduction of simulation learning for First Aid/CPR/AED courses. Simulation learning allows participants to practice their skills and knowledge in an online interactive, scenario-based environment. Using this new format, students can reinforce their knowledge outside of the classroom, making them better prepared for in-class instruction and more likely to retain it after the training.

The decision to incorporate simulation learning into Red Cross training follows the organization's comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the effectiveness of the tool, including dozens of U.S. Department of Education studies. The report also includes the results of interviews with EMTs, paramedics and cognitive experts.

Researchers identified five key training advantages to simulation learning:

A no-risk experience: Virtual interaction offers a safe environment in which first responders can test their knowledge without fear of causing actual harm. No-risk environments allow for unlimited attempts at mastering knowledge and decision-making which results in greater learner confidence.

Real-world scenarios: Simulation learning is effective because virtual scenarios offer engaging psychological realism. Researchers have found that learners stimulated by realism retain information more effectively.

A new way to train: Although simulation learning is not intended to be a game, many students find the video-game aspects of the interactions engaging. Further, course takers can train anytime and anywhere they have access to a computer.

Practice makes perfect: Because simulation learning allows course takers to repeatedly test their skills and knowledge at their own pace and in a variety of scenarios, it increases the retention of knowledge and leads to automatic responses.

Blended format is best: This effective training method is best when combined with in-class training. Studies reviewed in a Red Cross report show that a blended learning format is ideal as it allows learners to "debrief" with instructors after simulations in order to understand their mistakes, ask questions and then re-try scenarios online.

Students "who undergo a training experience that incorporates a blended instruction approach are better positioned to respond appropriately during moments of crisis," the report concluded. "Further, in combination with classroom training, online simulation learning can be more efficient and effective than traditional classroom-centric education alone."

But the true test is the real-world result.

In the words of one paramedic interviewed for the report, "The value for me is being able to make mistakes in a low-pressure environment and then learning from your mistakes and then doing that repetitive action so that when you do have the pressure on you and you know you have to perform with that pressure, you are able to do it because you have seen it done and felt it before."

Simulation training in First Aid/CPR/AED can be scheduled at Red Cross chapters around the country and will be available in the Spring for workplaces conducting courses onsite.

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