Simulation In And For Medical Humanitarian Action

Marta Iscla
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Since 2019, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)  is increasing the use of advanced Simulation Techniques in its medical humanitarian actions and medical training programs. Find out how simulation is implemented and  used   to prepare teams for complex healthcare crises and improve patient care in challenging environments, such as humanitarian settings. And learn about MSF’s commitment to quality and safety through simulation in healthcare.

Marta Iscla Aragones

Médecins Sans Frontières  (MSF)

Marta graduated in Nursing and has been working in Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) since 1996.

She obtained a Master’s degree in Public Health and Tropical Medicine in developing countries and a Master’s degree in simulation for healthcare and Education on Systems-focused care simulation and advanced debriefing for health care.

She is currently MSF Field Simulation Program Manager. She is member of the European Society for Simulation in Medicine (SESAM).




Médecins Sans Frontières: brief introduction and its challenges  

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or excluded from health care. The humanitarian contexts in which MSF works are fragile, challenging, and complex, and can even be contexts of high insecurity due to geopolitical situations. All of this requires great flexibility of action, adaptability and responsiveness to the population needs affected by different emergencies or crises.

Recent Implementation and Advancement of Simulation Techniques by MSF

Since 2019, MSF is increasing the use of simulation, as a methodology to support medical-humanitarian action and its objectives,as simulation is an effective way to increase preparedness, and at the same time it is used to reflect, analyze, and define ways to provide adapted, safe, and quality care to the population. To achieve this, the MSF Field Simulation program was established. It works on 3 main pillars:

  • development of simulation skills in the organization;
  • integrating simulation into MSF’s medical humanitarian action;
  • continuing to innovate in simulation in and for MSF.

Developing simulation skills in the organization is key. We provide simulation training and coaching to front-line workers, to mobile teams that travel to the field to support projects, and to people who coordinate, define protocols and strategies. This allows us to take advantage of the benefits of this methodology by using it in different teams and for different purposes in our day-to-day activities. We have also succeeded in training local facilitators and simulationists through the mobile simulation implementers, so that simulation activities can be part of the activities supporting the implementation of project objectives.

Simulation in Action: Innovation and Diverse Applications

Given the contexts and crises to which MSF responds, the MSF Field Simulation program is in a continuous process of innovation in the use and application of simulation, and alignment of simulation best practices with the reality of the context. Through the recreation of a real environment or situations that have happened or may happen in these contexts, individuals, teams, and the organization itself can practice, learn, reflect, design, test, gain understanding of systems and/or human actions, and help define innovative and adapted solutions to the reality of the contexts.

Different types of interventions are carried out to support the MSF medical humanitarian action. Let us discover some of them:

  • Simulation to develop and maintain key competencies: MSF teams must do things or manage, safely for themselves and patients, situations they have never done or managed before.
  • System-focused on-site simulations: in contexts where structures and resources are limited, there is a clear need to analyze real latent safety threats, and how the available systems and processes can provide safe and quality care for both patients and staff.
  • Simulation to define and test emergency and crisis preparedness and response: as an emergency humanitarian organization, it is important to use it to help teams respond quickly and effectively to crises.
  • Simulation to help overcome specific operational challenges: how can we maintain quality and safety on an ongoing basis if we move from direct to remote interventions management? Let us reflect on this through a simulation activity!
  • Post-event debriefing is key: during an emergency intervention or even in our normal challenging activities sometimes there is no time for training, but there is always time to learn. 
  • Simulation for team development: there are teams that have never worked together or even worked in such complex situations that good communication and coordination are essential to ensure safe and quality care.
  • Simulation for security: MSF teams must be prepared to react to and manage security related incidents arising from geopolitical contexts.
  • Low-cost virtual simulation: to support the MSF teams working around the world.
  • Simulation to design and testing processes, spaces, and circuits. 
  • Simulation to improve and reflect on our people-centered approach at any point in our actions.

Conclusion: Simulation as a Key Component in MSF Operations

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strives to provide high-quality medical care and integrating simulation into our operations is one of the approaches employed to achieve this goal. MSF is expanding simulation activities through various projects to address different operational challenges and quality gaps in the complex and difficult environments in which MSF operates. 

This leads to the fact that the use of simulation in these situations can be considered a seal of quality and safety in medical humanitarian action.

If you would like to collaborate in the MSF Field Simulation program to contribute with your simulation expertise, please contact:

Simulation in Healthcare, Medical Humanitarian Action, Humanitarian Medical Training, MSF Field Simulation Program


Marta Iscla

Marta Iscla

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) View all Posts

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