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CJEM. 2010 Jan;12(1):27-32.

The effectiveness of training with an emergency department simulator on medical student performance in a simulated disaster.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.



Training in practical aspects of disaster medicine is often impossible, and simulation may offer an educational opportunity superior to traditional didactic methods. We sought to determine whether exposure to an electronic simulation tool would improve the ability of medical students to manage a simulated disaster.


We stratified 22 students by year of education and randomly assigned 50% from each category to form the intervention group, with the remaining 50% forming the control group. Both groups received the same didactic training sessions. The intervention group received additional disaster medicine training on a patient simulator (, and the control group spent equal time on the simulator in a nondisaster setting. We compared markers of patient flow during a simulated disaster, including mean differences in time and number of patients to reach triage, bed assignment, patient assessment and disposition. In addition, we compared triage accuracy and scores on a structured command-and-control instrument. We collected data on the students' evaluations of the course for secondary purposes.


Participants in the intervention group triaged their patients more quickly than participants in the control group (mean difference 43 s, 99.5% confidence interval [CI] 12 to 75 s). The score of performance indicators on a standardized scale was also significantly higher in the intervention group (18/18) when compared with the control group (8/18) (p < 0.001). All students indicated that they preferred the simulation-based curriculum to a lecture-based curriculum. When asked to rate the exercise overall, both groups gave a median score of 8 on a 10-point modified Likert scale.


Participation in an electronic disaster simulation using the software package appears to increase the speed at which medical students triage simulated patients and increase their score on a structured command-and-control performance indicator instrument. Participants indicated that the simulation-based curriculum in disaster medicine is preferable to a lecture-based curriculum. Overall student satisfaction with the simulation-based curriculum was high.

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