For the first time in its eight years, the SIM Expo made its way to Calgary to showcase technological advancements designed to assist medical practitioners and students, and, by association, patients.   

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a medical school - in fact, I don’t think you would - in North America that isn’t transitioning to this mode of education,” explained Tim Willett, president and CEO of Simulation Canada. “It’s just increasing with the increasing expectations of having highly skilled practitioners, the increase in the complexity of skills you need from these practitioners, and the increasing demands of teamwork.”

“We’re just seeing the use of simulation increase and increase, and it’s making education more effective and its making care safer.”

The vast majority of those in attendance at the two-day tradeshow at Hotel Arts are Canadian and, according to Willett, included representatives from colleges, universities and hospitals from across the nation. “It’s really a tremendous mixture of sectors, of disciplines, and professions.”

Adam Cheng, a University of Calgary professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine who also serves as the director of research and development for the Kids Sim simulation program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, says the advancements in the simulation industry are nothing short of amazing.

“The level of technology and the degree of realism that we’re seeing in these simulators, it’s really remarkable,” said Cheng. “Back in the day, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, we had plastic inert mannequins that couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, had no pulses. Now we’re in a day and age where mannequins can blink, they can talk, they can breathe, they have pulses. We can put in IV’s and give them fluids and medications to create an environment that is so realistic that learners, health care providers, will come in and they will, within moments, be engaged and feel like it’s the real thing.”

“It’s really tremendous.”

Dr Alyshah Kaba, lead research scientist for Alberta Health Services, says the use of simulators is no longer restricted to students alone. “We’re seeing that shift of the pendulum from just focusing on our learners at the university level and really kind of moving to health care practitioners.”

“We’re seeing the maturity of this (simulation) community. We’re seeing educators that want to become scholars who want to know ‘What are the best approaches to simulation? How can we improve and move the needle?’ and ‘How do we bring that to the clinical environment?’ because there’s so much opportunity to use SIM with our practicing health officials, not only our learners.”

Kaba adds that simulation offers an experiential learning environment that allows teams to come together outside a clinical environment and its benefits are not limited to patient outcomes. “It really gives them an opportunity to learn how to communicate, how to define a leader and how to engage in problem solving and decision making before they go into practice.”

SIM Expo is an annual event and the 2018 edition is the first time it has been held outside of Ontario.

With files from CTV’s Kevin Fleming