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Realities of Scenario Based Training

Regardless of whether you work in a full time emergency service or fill volunteer and retained roles, we all have the challenge of practicing skills that are honestly not used all that often, but remain critical for that occasional time it is actually needed.

Scenario based training is a preferred way to practice and drill these skills – providing a realistic and holistic approach and helping us “train how we play”. But in the day to day world (especially for those who also have to fit in other paid employment, or work with training cupboards that are looking a bit bare) there are many challenges to overcome when trying to make training as realistic as possible. So let’s talk about some of these challenges, and why I’m currently sitting here with a laminator and a pair of scissors.

My challenges this week

Last week I was asked to help out running some training at my retained ambulance branch. We plan to practice different scenarios that utilise pharmacology.

Challenge 1: The branch has one ambulance – with one drug kit, oxygen kit and assessment kit… and we are working with three groups of people. There is no additional funding allocated for this training. There isn’t really scene props, and no moulage (I’m not sure I could convince everyone about that anyway, and the best volunteer moulage people I know are in Sydney).

Challenge 2: It’s a pretty busy week for me. I am working most days developing things for other people, as well as doing some on call shifts with the ambulance. Time is tight! I am looking at five different scenarios to be developed for my small group.

Challenge 3: This is the first year that the branch is trying this style of training, with a move away from lectures. It needs to be good. We want everyone convinced this is a better way to do things.

The Iron Triangle

So to me, this is another of my regular triangle dilemmas:

scope The project management guru’s are spot on with this diagram: Life says everything we do is delivered under certain constraints.  One side of this triangle cannot be changed without affecting the others, or affecting quality.

To maintain high quality, it’s either going to take more time, cost more money, or you are going to need to reduce how much you want to achieve.

The realities of running scenario based training mean you are always going to juggle these, and something may have to give. Being around long enough now I have made peace (of sorts) with this… but the angst about where to give always persists! So back to my challenges.

Overcoming Challenges

Scope: I do need to provide five scenarios to cover all the required pharmacology. This can’t change.

Time: I have set aside some time on two evenings to think things through and prepare resources. After a quick internet search to see any existing templates I could use, I’m also saving some time by reusing and updating a template from first aid training I did years ago. It’s not perfect (ouch!) but it is definitely effective. So I know this costs me some family and relaxation time, but I think its worth it for the bigger picture of quality training for my branch and the flow on effects for community.

Cost: One of the educators has offered to bring up some extra gear from another branch (score!) In addition to this I hit Google image search – I found some pictures that will more accurately show how different conditions may present and give us a mental picture. I also found pictures of our equipment and have made a very flat pack version of our kits from the ambulance. Coloured paper, laminating pouches and some Velcro dots and I have reusable, easy to transport props.

I know it wont allow us to actually practice using these tools, but process wise it allows us to go through some motions and give us the visual memory rather than just saying and forgetting things. Luckily the focus is on pharmacology thinking, so I don’t feel this affects the overall quality of the training activity too much.

So, overall – not the highest quality training I will ever produce, but it will work. It meets scope, cost and time constraints to the best of my ability. Compared to lecture style training it is still an improved level of quality.

Moving On

My key reflections from this?

  • When training has constraints such as cost, you can’t beat having a network of other trainers or people who are willing to share and help out.
  • If you invest some time in making things, do it well enough that you will keep resources and don’t forget them! They will save you time in the future.
  • There is nothing wrong with building on what others have done. Why start from scratch if you don’t need to?
  • If you are going to be laminating and cutting lots of things out, don’t forget a glass of wine to go with it.

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