Objectives: Emergency department (ED) teams frequently perform under conditions of high stress. Stress exposure simulation (SES) is specifically designed to train recognition and management of stress responses under these conditions. Current approaches to design and delivery of SES in emergency medicine are based on principles derived from other contexts and from anecdotal experience. However, the optimal design and delivery of SES in emergency medicine are not known. We aimed to explore participant experience to inform our approach.
Methods: We performed an exploratory study in our Australian ED with doctors and nurses participating in SES sessions. We used a three-part framework—sources of stress, the impacts of that stress, and the strategies to mitigate—to inform our SES design and delivery and to guide our exploration of participant experience. Data were collected through a narrative survey and participant interviews and analyzed thematically.
Results: There were 23 total participants (doctors n = 12, nurses n = 11) across the three sessions. Sixteen survey responses and eight interview transcripts were analyzed, each with equal numbers of doctors and nurses. Five themes were identified in data analysis: (1) experience of stress, (2) managing stress, (3) design and delivery of SES, (4) learning conversations, and (5) transfer to practice.
Conclusions: We suggest that design and delivery of SES should follow health care simulation best practice, with stress adequately induced by authentic clinical scenarios and to avoid trickery or adding extraneous cognitive load. Facilitators leading learning conversations in SES sessions should develop a deep understanding of stress and emotional activation and focus on team-based strategies to mitigate harmful impacts of stress on performance.