Immersive Simulation Education: A Novel Approach to Pandemic Preparedness and Response

Authors

  • Paul P. Rega M.D.,

    1. Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, University of Toledo Health Science Campus, Toledo, Ohio
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  • Brian N. Fink Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, University of Toledo Health Science Campus, Toledo, Ohio
    • Correspondence to: Brian N. Fink, University of Toledo Health Science Campus, 3000 Arlington Ave., MS#1027, Toledo, OH 43614. E-mail: brian.fink2@utoledo.edu

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Abstract

Pandemic management involves strategic and tactical concepts rarely experienced with other disasters. To comprehend the enormity of these tasks and experience the critical decision-making required, local public health and other stakeholders participate in tabletop and functional exercises. Students in Master of Public Health (MPH) programs not only rarely experience this educational format, but also are seldom afforded substantive time to appreciate the critical decision making that is unique to pandemics. An immersive semester-long simulation exercise was created to educate graduate public health students about pandemics. Students in a MPH course were divided into groups representing county health departments. During the semester, students collaborated and completed incident command training, received audio lectures, and materials concerning an imminent pandemic. The students then participated in the 2.5-hr facilitated tabletop exercises in the classroom. A survey was developed to assess their perceptions of the experience. Most students felt more knowledgeable afterward and thought that this training style was innovative, entertaining, educational, and recommended it to fellow students and colleagues. The students believed that delivering a tabletop exercise in this fashion was educational and entertaining. It gave the students a better appreciation of the role of public health in managing the complexities associated with pandemics.

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