Simulation-based education programs could prepare healthcare system for bioterror attacks

A researcher from East Tennessee State University recently published a study that suggests using a simulation-based education program could better prepare healthcare systems for bioterrorism events such as anthrax infection.

Martin E. Olsen, a doctor with the university's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that the program could significantly improve outcomes for bioterrorism victims and their communities in the future. The study was recently published in the Southern Medical Journal.

Olsen said that the anthrax bioterrorism attacks after Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated that the U.S. is vulnerable to similar future attacks. Healthcare systems and medical communities must effectively prepare for the diagnosis and management of future bioterrorism attacks. Medical simulation could be employed to teach healthcare employees about diagnosing and managing anthrax exposure.

Medical simulation use increased significantly in the decade since the attacks, adapting technology to the educational environment and giving health workers the ability to rehearse critical patient care events. By using the simulation model, healthcare employees may be able to decrease the amount of time from an terrorist attack's detection to its announcement, Southern Medical Journal reports.

Faster detection could save lives. Anthrax infection has a high mortality rate with late diagnosis and a much improved mortality rate when the diagnosis is made shortly after exposure.

"Bioterrorism threats will remain a concern for the healthcare system for the foreseeable future," Olsen said, according to Southern Medical Journal. "In the case of anthrax, early diagnosis can be lifesaving for exposed patients and can allow for the rapid implementation of protocols to protect the community at large."

Olsen said that medical simulation has been confirmed in peer-reviewed studies to be an excellent medical education tool.