The use of technology is having a profound effect not only on the way that teachers teach but also on how students learn and what knowledge is retained.  Emphasis on cost-containment and evidence-based use of resources is imperative. Changes in societal expectations about the patient safety aspects of developing competence and skill in medicine through using the long-standing teaching method of “see one, do one, teach one” (Guze 2015). For these reasons the use of patient simulation is becoming increasingly popular.

Patient simulation with Actors

Simulated patients are individuals who are trained to simulate the signs and symptoms of an actual patient which allows a student doctor, nurse or healthcare worker to practice their communication and consultation skills and in some cases physical examination skills. They are also trained to provide feedback to the students, especially in the area of interpersonal communication skills. Professional actors are used where more complex emotional states are required or for complex and challenging patient cases to allow students to practise higher levels of communication skills.

Patient simulation with Mannequins

Simulation using state of the art adult and paediatric simulators allows trainees to explore all possible outcomes and potential errors or complications related to procedures or techniques. 

Examples of Patient Simulation

EM SIM Cases  –  This site provides peer-reviewed simulation cases for Emergency Medicine programs. Cases include elderly patients who are approaching end of life with cases mapped to clear educational objectives.

Human Anatomy Atlas  –  Considered the “gold standard” of anatomy reference apps, the Human Anatomy Atlas comprises more than 10,000 3D structures (along with the ability to zoom, pan, and rotate from multiple viewpoints), as well as definitions, pronunciations, Latin terms, and explanations. Then, test your knowledge thanks to more than 1,000 quiz questions. This app is not free.

MedSims  –  Medscape’s online medical simulations provide real-world scenarios and patient interactions to enable healthcare professionals to practice and learn in a safe, true-to-life environment.

My Organs Anatomy  –  My Organs Anatomy is a medical simulation app that allows users to have an in-depth study of human anatomy. It features a 3D model that users can rotate for 360°. The app also has an x-ray and animation mode. The app is free but there are in app purchases and advertising.

Benefits of using Patient simulation

Simulated patients act as a key stepping stone between the classroom and the clinic. They allow students practice in a safe environment before they meet ‘real’ patients in the clinic. Simulation provides opportunities for students to practice skills as often as requires often as necessary to develop competence, providing immediate feedback to the learner until performance meets the required proficiency level. Training can all be provided in a risk-free environment away from the patient and can reduce the training time for learning complex medical, surgical and communication skills. 

Challenges of using Patient simulation

Although available simulators do not reproduce the patient with palliative care needs in his/her entirety, they do represent a giant leap forward from static mannequins. In addition, standardised scenarios that exert real-time pressure are easily developed. Issues related to culture, performance anxiety, time pressures, and perceptions of students and staff can interfere with the immersion experience.


Guze, Phyllis A. “Using Technology to Meet the Challenges of Medical Education” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association vol. 126 (2015): 260-70.