Human factors tools for improving simulation activities in continuing medical education


  • F. Jacob Seagull PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Education, University of Michigan Medical School
    • University of Michigan Medical School, 1208 Towsley Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, SPC-5201, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Disclosures: The author reports none.


Human factors (HF) is a discipline often drawn upon when there is a need to train people to perform complex, high-stakes tasks and effectively assess their performance. Complex tasks often present unique challenges for training and assessment. HF has developed specialized techniques that have been effective in overcoming several of these challenges in work settings such as aviation, process control, and the military. Many HF techniques could be applied to simulation in continuing medical education to enhance effectiveness of simulation and training, yet these techniques are not widely known by medical educators. Three HF techniques are described that could benefit health care simulation in areas of training techniques, assessment, and task design: (1) bandwidth feedback techniques for designing better feedback and task guidance, (2) dual-task assessment techniques that can differentiate levels of expertise in tasks where performance is essentially perfect, and (3) task abstraction techniques for developing task-relevant fidelity for simulations. Examples of each technique are given from work settings in which these principles have been applied successfully. Application of these principles to medical simulation and medical education is discussed. Adapting these techniques to health care could improve training in medical education.