July 25, 2018

Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Simulation Education

Arkansas State University

By Dr. Patricia Guy-Walls, LMSW; Dr. Evi Taylor, LCSW and Sarah Eberwein, BSW
Arkansas State University


Simulation, particularly in healthcare, is becoming a popular modality for clinical education and training (Davies & Alinier, 2011).  Through the creation of realistic scenarios and the use of innovative equipment, students are able to practice skills in real life like-settings until they are mastered (Green, Tariq, & Green, 2016). Simulation education enables students to gain the necessary skill sets needed for successful careers that cannot be acquired solely from textbooks and lectures. Simulation creates an opportunity for orientation to new procedures, exposure to rare clinical situations, assessment of knowledge, and evaluation of skills (Green et al., 2016).  When providing optimal care, healthcare providers must be able to communicate with patients, their families, and other treatment team members. Therefore, interdisciplinary collaboration is an important factor in simulation education as it allows students to experience teamwork with students from other professions (Manning, Skiff, Santiago, & Irish, 2016). The Department of Social Work’s Simulation Training and Research (STAR) House is a new innovative approach in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Arkansas State University. The STAR house was developed to “mimic” the conditions and tasks professionals may encounter while in a community setting. This article will provide a discussion of the STAR House and discuss how simulation training across disciplines can enhance students’ learning.

STAR House

Research consistently shows the effectiveness of simulation education in allowing students to practice their skills in real life-like situations. The benefits of simulation and interdisciplinary collaboration are well established in the literature (DiVall, Dolbig, Carney, Kirwin, Letzeiser, & Mohammed, 2014, 2014; Ertmer et al., 2010; Manning et al., Lateef, 2010 2016; Mooradian, 2008). The success of simulation education played a key role in the development of Arkansas State University’s Simulation Training and Research (STAR) House, the newest addition to the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

The STAR house is a furnished 2 bedroom, 1 bath house on Arkansas State University’s campus that can be staged to create a wide range of realistic experiences. For instance, social work students will practice family therapy skills in a real house, with a family, role-played by other students. The house can be staged with drugs, foul smells, bugs, loud noises, etc. and students will practice how to respond and provide services in these real-life like situations. The house can also be staged for students to assess safety for child welfare classes. There are video cameras throughout the house that record the students. This allows them to be evaluated by professors, classmates, as well as themselves. Watching the recordings provides valuable feedback as it enables students to see the techniques they need to improve.

The STAR House can be used by a variety of students including, social work, child advocacy, counseling, psychology, sociology, criminology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, and disaster preparedness. Community agencies such as the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and law enforcement officials will also utilize the STAR house to conduct trainings. Each discipline can stage the house accordingly to provide an environment allowing students/workers and a team of individuals to practice and strengthen their skill sets.

The STAR House will utilize approaches that correspond with the way most adults learn: inductively, from specific to general, and through practice and feedback. This environment will provide an opportunity for students and professionals to improve their knowledge while assessing their skills. Participants will have the opportunity to develop skills for gathering and evaluating data, environmental assessment, effective interviewing and problem-solving. Students from multiple disciplines will participate in real-life situations where they can apply skills learned in the classroom and garner knowledge while dealing with real problems in a controlled, collaborative, learning environment. This new tool will add an essential component of professional practice through case studies and examples that present challenges that arise in everyday professional practice.

In conclusion, simulation education has been proven to be an effective and preferred method for learning among interdisciplinary teams.  Research shows simulation has been instrumental and effective in demonstrating health care situations across the life span from how to handle emergency situations in labor and delivery (Davies & Alinier, 2011) to providing safe practices in home health care for seniors (MacDonald, Galbraith, Halliday, Smith, & Willett, 2013). Students and professionals utilizing simulation education experienced improvement in many areas including confidence, critical thinking, contextual perspective, logical reasoning, reflection, and communication (Ertmer et al., 2010). They also gained knowledge of their own roles and the roles of students from other professions (DiVall et al., 2014).  As the first simulation house in Arkansas to be connected to a college campus, the Social Work Department housed in the College of Nursing and Health Professions has been given an extraordinary opportunity as a trailblazer to provide students with simulation experiences.  Based on the current literature, it is anticipated that the students utilizing the STAR House will enhance their knowledge base (Lateef, 2019), improve retention of material learned (Oliva & Compton, 2009), and improve their communication and interactions with various healthcare professions (DiVall et al., 2014; Manning et al., 2016) which should allow them to provide more effective services to patients/clients.



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