Little Evidence to Support Simulation-Based Training for Medical Laboratory Technology Students, Research Study Concludes

    HAMILTON, ON, Jan. 22 /CNW/ - A research study released today by CSMLS
concludes that there is little evidence to support the use of 'clinical
simulation' as a replacement for clinical training - the 'hands on' work
experience - that is part of the educational preparation of medical laboratory
technology students in Canada.
    The study, which was conducted by the CSMLS and funded by Health Canada,
was initiated to examine issues related to the use of clinical simulation in
medical laboratory technology programs. An earlier study published by CSMLS in
2004 revealed that a shortage of clinical placements was jeopardizing the
ability of educational institutions to deliver the clinical component of their
MLT programs. At that time, clinical sites - the vast majority of which were
hospital laboratories - were finding it difficult to devote resources to
educating students due to staffing shortages and a lack of government funding.
    "Clinical simulation, which attempts to facilitate learning by recreating
the real-life laboratory situations in a controlled environment, was seen in
some circles as a solution to the shortage of clinical placements," says the
study's lead investigator, Dr. Moira Grant. "It was thought that
simulation-based training would be cheaper, faster and would relieve the
burden on the clinical sites. We wanted to put those assumptions to the test."
    The study concludes that there is very little evidence to support the use
of clinical simulation in medical laboratory technology programs.
    "This lack of information presents problems on several fronts," says Dr.
Grant. "We don't have a knowledge base from which to determine the components
of the education program that are best suited for delivery in a simulated
environment, or the appropriate length for the simulation training." Many of
those who were interviewed for the study said that even if simulation were to
be used to some extent, it would never completely replace the need for
students to have direct exposure to the 'real world' of the medical
    Cost was also found to be a significant issue. Simulation-based training
is very demanding, in terms of both money and teaching expertise. In fact, two
institutions have terminated their simulation programs because of a lack of
ongoing government funding. "Sustained funding is a critical success factor
for simulation-based training," says Dr. Grant. "Consider, for example, the
cost to education institutions of purchasing and maintaining the type of
high-tech laboratory equipment that is used in hospitals. These start-up and
ongoing expenses must be duplicated in the educational institution when the
program adopts simulation-based training."
    "Decision makers in government and in educational institutions have a
responsibility to ensure that education programs for future health care
professionals such as medical laboratory technologists are delivered in a
cost-effective manner and are based on evidence-informed educational theory,"
says CSMLS executive director and study co-investigator, Kurt Davis.
    Clinical simulation may have a place in medical laboratory technology
education programs, but until there is more evidence to support its use, the
CSMLS is urging provincial governments to reinvest in clinical education. "We
are recommending that provincial and federal governments target funds to
support onsite clinical education for medical laboratory technologists. We
further recommend that funding also be made available to conduct research into
the value and effectiveness of clinical simulation. A reinvestment today may
help to ease the future impact of a shortage of medical laboratory
technologists - half of whom will be eligible to retire within the next ten
years," says Mr. Davis.
    A report on the results of the study is available at

    CSMLS is the national certifying body for medical laboratory
technologists and medical laboratory assistants and the national professional
society for Canada's medical laboratory professionals. The society has over
14,000 members. Version française disponible.

For further information:

For further information: Alison McLennan, Director, Communication,
Telephone: (905) 528-8642 ext. 15, Email:

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Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science

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