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Am J Manag Care. 2010 Jun 1;16(6):e145-50.

Using simulation to identify and resolve threats to patient safety.

Author information

  • 1Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA. william.hamman@wmich.edu



The simulation-based team training used in commercial aviation can provide healthcare professionals with guidance on improving patient safety.


To show how in situ simulation can identify latent environmental threats to patient safety.


Case study.


This in situ simulation took place at a large Midwestern hospital in January 2007. It involved a patient with chest pain and hypotension that required cardiac catheterization. The simulation had 2 phases: emergency department and catheterization laboratory. Materials included a patient manikin, a high-definition camcorder, and software for annotating the video in real time. Props (eg, simulated electrocardiogram results, chest x-rays) were used. A Master Scenario Event List was used to orchestrate the entire simulation event.


Three latent environmental threats to patient safety were identified: procedures for transporting patients between the 2 units, for managing the handoff process, and for organizing the cardiac catheterization process. These were not training issues, but were due to poorly developed or nonexistent procedures that affected the performance of all healthcare teams on those units every working day. The threats were identified by the simulation participants (along with their supervisors) during the post-simulation debriefing as being sufficiently common and dangerous to warrant further review and remedy.


By conducting our simulations in the actual environment of care, using intact teams of healthcare professionals who practiced their actual technologies and work processes during the simulation, we could identify latent environmental threats to patient safety that could never be explored in an artificial laboratory environment.

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