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Simulation in preclinical medical student education: getting started
  1. Emily M Hayden1,2,
  2. James A Gordon1,2
  1. 1Gilbert Program in Medical Simulation, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Division of Medical Simulation, Department of Emergency Medicine and MGH Learning Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emily M Hayden, Department of Emergency Medicine Faculty Offices, Massachusetts General Hospital, 0 Emerson, Suite 3B, Boston, MA 02144, USA; emhayden{at}

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High-fidelity patient simulation allows deliberate practice1 of clinical skills, and is now commonly deployed as an educational platform for trainees, staff and teams across healthcare. In our medical school simulation laboratory, we focus primarily on the preclinical education of medical students, prior to their patient-care rotations. This approach may seem counterintuitive at such an early stage of training, but we find it powerful as a platform to teach basic biomedical science.2 ,3 In this brief practice report, we review core principles of our approach for readers who wish to pursue further work at the interface of healthcare simulation and basic science education.

Which cases to select?

Many medical educators have historically viewed mannequin simulation as useful only for code cases; however, we use such cases sparingly and instead run simple cases of common medical symptoms (eg, shortness of breath). When we write our cases, we keep them as ‘textbook’ as possible and avoid the temptation to make the case more complicated which can distract the novice student from the pathophysiology.

Even when viewed as an adjunct to teaching basic biomedical concepts, it is important to account for the emotional impact of simulation on the student. In the beginning of our simulation programme, we would allow the patient to die during …

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