Patient safety initiatives are increasingly directed at improving both the individual and collective skills of teams of health care professionals. The Institute of Medicine estimates that poor communication among health care professionals is a major source of those errors. In an effort to increase patient safety, several centers around the country are using simulators to train physicians to more effectively care for patients.

The Wood and Clinical Simulation Centers at Washington University School of Medicine have been the recipients of several grants funded by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of the Department of Health and Human Services — that hopes to improve patient safety by designing more effective training and assessment strategies using simulation. This simulation-based research is used to establish practice and competence standards for physician skills that are directly applicable to patient care.

These grant projects included:

  • Acute Care Management Skills: An Assessment Program for Graduate Physicians
  • Teamwork, Communication and Decision-Making: As Assessment Program Using Simulation
  • Critical Care Skills: Simulation to Assess Decision-Making Skills

The goal of the research is to gain insight into the common causes of communication failures, and ultimately to bring significant changes to the practice of medicine that will improve patient safety.

David Murray, MD, the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor of Medicine, and his colleagues have been using simulators to help assess and improve physician competence for more than 20 years.

Other research areas

Murray and other faculty members in the School of Medicine’s simulation programs have published a number of scientific articles on topics such as setting standards for mannequin-based acute-care scenarios and whether an inventory of simulated intra-operative scenarios provides a reliable measure of anesthesia residents’ and anesthesiologists’ skill.