An internship as a simulation psychologist

Michela Bernardini
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Simulation psychologists training at a simulation center ponder a possible new career path

Being able to develop skills in the field of psychology applied to education and training activities that take place in a simulation center turns out to be a new task that is both necessary and stimulating. Simulation centers and laboratories are, in fact, equipped spaces where students, interns and health professionals can acquire skills and competencies with the help of simulators, virtual solutions and simulated patients. The objective is to encourage experiential learning, through exercises in realistic environments, to substantially improve patient safety by increasing the quality of care (1).

Nowadays, in addition to the classic skills in healthcare, the development and strengthening of transversal skills is even more required, an important factor that favors a significant reduction in errors, greater complianceand better clinical results with greater satisfaction of all the actors (patients and healthcare operators). (4). In fact, the importance of transversal skills and the need to include them in the training itinerary of any professional is currently documented, especially if it is oriented towards the concept of “health”.

In this context, therefore, the psychologist can, and perhaps should, play an important role by applying the professional skills acquired and putting them at the service of the healthcare population.

The figure of the psychologist, an element of primary importance in the context of the team that works in the clinical field, is characterized by great theoretical and clinical potential.. According to the law, in fact, the psychologist is the one who can use cognitive and intervention tools for prevention, diagnosis, psychological support, and rehabilitation, aimed at people, groups, social organizations and communities. It also includes experimentation, research and teaching activities in this field. To date, the role of the psychologist in contexts that involve simulation for health professionals is not defined, circumscribed, or established. In fact, there is no training course for a psychologist who wants to approach and delve into these areas.

The SIMNOVA Simulation Center, after a bureaucratic process that began a few years ago, this year offered the possibility of doing an internship to undergraduate students in Clinical and Health Psychology. The practice was characterized by distance and face-to-face meetings, with moments of discussion about doubts and expectations, which evidenced a lack of knowledge of the health simulation sector. They were moments of theoretical study through bibliographical research, aimed at learning both the doctrine of simulation and the activities that are carried out in a simulation center, as well as moments of active practice in which we attended simulations aimed at students at the last year of medicine, and social and behavioral skills workshops, which end with a final project by the student.

Marianna Frisoli, Ludovica Girotto and Alessandro Biffi from the University of Bergamo tell us about their internship experience.

1 – Did you know about simulation before the internship? What do you think now?

Before the internship, we knew absolutely nothing.
Now perhaps we have our ideas a little clearer: we know that it allows you to work with future health personnel, dust off the techniques of those who are already experts, adding a pinch of psychological reflection to the whole.

2 – What is the most interesting thing you have learned/observed during this journey?

What most caught our attention is the great availability and variety of material for stage use and the extensive use of technology, useful for making the simulation a highly realistic context. We also had the opportunity to see how teamwork is essential for the activity to run smoothly, both for those who offer the service and for those who use it.

As future psychologists, it was also important to assess how for other disciplines, such as medicine, the limit between technical and non-technical skills is perceived as marked, unlike psychology where this limit is more diffuse.

3 – What do you think you have learned and have not learned?

It’s hard to say what we expected to learn. Our initial choice was motivated by the desire to find useful information to write our thesis (Are you curious to know the arguments? See TABLE 1), but although it was not, we treasured the large amount of information acquired.

Our thesis

Alessandro Biffi, “The psychological benefits of playful role play.”
Marianna Frisoli, “Psychological intervention at the end of life: the emotional effects on the patient, on the family and on the professional.”
Ludovica Girotto, “Metacognition in general practitioners: decision making and personality traits”

4 – In light of the internship, what is the role of a psychologist in a Simulation Center?

It is yet to be outlined. From what we have been able to observe, the psychologist carries out a bibliographic search as a team with the aim of expanding the knowledge and qualities of the new techniques and, secondly, assumes a conclusive role by dealing with the debriefing phase, attributing meaning to the simulation.

5 – What do you take away from this experience?

Given that the contribution of psychology in simulation is still under construction, what we take home the most is the feeling of being part of a new project, thanks to which we have acquired skills and awareness of a sector unknown to us. In addition, having witnessed and participated in the practical realization of daily psychological work has allowed us to satisfy our desire not to remain only in the books. Despite this, we also found time to socialize with people we had never met in five years of lessons together.

6 – What do you think you have contributed to the Simulation Center?

I think that our greatest contribution was, perhaps, to have given rise to a reflection on how to extend simulation to psychological training and not only to medical training: therefore, to propose training simulations with the aim of teaching psychology students to position themselves as team using a mix of different faculties (educational sciences, medicine, nursing, primary education sciences…). This would help students to experience the situations in which they will find themselves working in a protected, closed and managed environment in which they are allowed to interact with the subject “by trial and error” with the supervision of an expert.

7 – Would you recommend another psychology student this type of practice? Why or why not?

Undoubtedly! As well as being an interesting and educational experience, it also leaves plenty of room for fun. However, we would like to recommend a prevalence of face-to-face meetings.

8 – Aspects to improve?

In our lives there are many… in curricular practices, on the other hand, we believe that it may be useful not to limit the student’s contribution to mere research (bibliographical and otherwise) but to involve him/her in a more direct and practical experience. Regarding the field of simulation, as future psychologists, we would like to recommend a greater empowerment of what the psychological role can offer, going beyond the debriefing activity and development of non-technical skills.

Michela Bernardini

Michela Bernardini

SIMNOVA, Centro di Simulazione in Medicina e Professioni Sanitarie, Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale, Novara View all Posts

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