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Background  This paper examines the role of high fidelity simulation and crisis resource management in bridging the gap between theory and practice. Patient safety is fundamental to healthcare professional practice and is a common goal for healthcare providers. It provides a focus to motivate practitioners. Patient safety issues are not a priority in undergraduate curricula. Raising the profile at this level is crucial to improving the safety and quality of healthcare delivery. This paper explores the role of simulation in providing a realistic, safe environment for participants with different levels of experience to manage evolving crises in the context of their work environment.

Methods  The Southern Health Simulation and Skills Centre uses a patient safety focus in delivering a specialised educational programme adapted from aviation to healthcare. The programme, crisis resource management, enables participants to consolidate knowledge, attitudes and skills to achieve a deeper understanding of how their performance impacts on patient safety and the quality of healthcare provided. Self-reported written evaluation data was collected from participants of three different courses at Southern Health.

Results  Participants consistently report that these courses offer unique learning experiences that address aspects of workplace learning in ways that have not previously been possible. A video-assisted reflective process powerfully reinforces learning.

Conclusion  Crisis resource management courses demonstrate the value of simulation in bridging the gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ and keeping the focus on patient safety. Recommendations are made for ways in which the core elements of crisis resource management philosophy can influence the conceptualisation of a new medical curriculum.