Thursday, 26 June 2014

SESAM 2014: The good, the bad… and the missing

Poznan town hall
The 20th Anniversary meeting of the Society in Europe for Simulation Applied to Medicine (SESAM) took place in Poznan, Poland from the 12th-14th June 2014.

The good

The keynote speakers were excellent. Roger Kneebone started us off with a talk about engaging the public, setting up a 2-way conversation between clinicians, scientists and the laypeople. Roger provided lots of food for thought around breaking down the boundaries of the simulation centre, as well as the similarities between experts in other fields (stone masons, lute-makers, tailors) and experts in medicine.
Terry Poulton talked about virtual patients and how they are using the findings from Kahneman's studies to inform the decision-making aspect of the virtual patient programmes. Terry also asked for people who were willing to collaborate with him on a project combining virtual patients and simulation.
Lastly, Walter Eppich discussed feedback and debriefing, how they can be applied to clinical practice and pitfalls to watch out for.

The SESAM app was great. Simple and easy to use, it allowed you to see the programme including the abstracts of the workshops or lectures. It also allowed you to "favourite" individual sessions, so you could quickly figure out where you needed to go next. Also, if you registered with the app, you could be messaged by other conference attendees, which made meeting up with people very easy. A great addition and "must-have" for future conferences.
The wi-fi was free, fast and easily able to cope with the number of people connected. Unlike some conferences the wi-fi did not drop off intermittently or tell you that the maximum number of people had been connected.
There were charging stations for your iPhone/iPad (other mobile devices are available) which meant you didn't have to go looking in corners of rooms for plug sockets.
Twitter is being used more and more and #sesam2014 allowed you to keep up with developments in other sessions.

Workshops & SimOlympics
SimOlympics (with a scary mannequin)
The workshops were interactive (thank goodness!) and informative. Ross Scalese ran a very good workshop on simulation assessment, covering checklists and rating scales, how to train raters, reliability and validity. The small number of participants (see below "…and the missing") meant that this was almost a one-to-one opportunity to talk about problems and solutions. 
SimOlympics was good fun. Seeing group after group of medical students being put through their paces (with a range of performances) was inspirational.

Range of participants
It was a pleasure to meet people from all over Europe, including Ukraine and Czech Republic, from a range of healthcare backgrounds (paramedics, surgeons, GPs, paediatricians, nurses, etc.) all at different stages of simulation development. The conference was a real melting pot of people which allowed you to learn from some and help others.

The bad

Time-keeping was poor. In particular, the introductions to the keynotes started late and then ran over, which meant that the keynotes themselves were curtailed and/or rushed. Sticking to time is basic "good housekeeping" and, after 20 years, should not still be a problem.

Some sessions were cancelled or the facilitator failed to show up at the last minute. A pre-conference course for simulation technicians was cancelled the week before (although the organisers were happy to refund the money) and a workshop on ROI, to be led by Russell Metcalfe-Smith, resulted in about 20 participants milling around waiting for him, only to be to be told (after about 15 minutes) that the workshop had been cancelled.

…and the missing

There were much fewer participants than at SESAM 2013 in Paris. When you can barely walk around a hospital now without tripping over a mannequin of some sort, the lack of participants was surprising. Explanations include:
  • AMEE is in Milan this year. A number of people have said that they can only go to one conference per year and would prefer to go to "beautiful" Milan than Poznan. However, choosing the conference based on the city it is being held in rather than the content seems somewhat strange…
  • HPSN Europe is in Istanbul and similar arguments about "beautiful" Istanbul have been aired. In addition, the conference is free. It is unclear whether having a free industry-sponsored conference is of benefit to the advancement of simulation across Europe.
  • Budgets in a time of austerity. Having had to make a strong case for attendance at SESAM bSCSCHF staff it is probable that a "holiday" in Poland would not be supported by many simulation centres. Unfortunately it is a recurring theme that budget holders are happy to pay thousands of pounds/dollars/euros for pieces of equipment but are not willing to pay hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros for staff to be trained or to attend conferences. This short-sightedness needs to be tackled head-on.

Final thoughts

The SESAM2014 conference was extremely worthwhile attending. If you were unable to attend because of monetary constraints you need to make a stronger case. If you feel that you aren't part of a network or are unsure how to integrate simulation into your curriculum or need advice about inter-professional education then SESAM is the forum for you. If you want to get the chance to listen to and speak to some of the trailblazers in simulation (Kneebone, Eppich, Scalese, Dieckmann and more) then SESAM is where you need to be. SESAM2015 is in Belfast, Northern Ireland, June 24th-27th. Hope to see you there...

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