Simulation olympics: innovations that showcase EM resident resuscitation skills

Dagnone_DamonThis post is written by Dr. Damon Dagnone. Dr. Dagnone is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Faculty Lead of CBME for Postgraduate MedEd at Queen’s University. He is the Director of the Queen’s Simulation Olympics and is also the Co-Chair of the CAEP Simulation Olympiad. When not in the sim lab, the ER, or in meetings, he can be found chasing his kids and trying to enjoy his 40s. To contact Dr. Dagnone, email him at


Team-based simulation training has increasingly been utilized to train inter-professional teams throughout hospitals and medical training programs. The benefits of using simulation-based team training center around an adult learning approach, which offers its learners deliberate practice, context-dependent and experiential learning. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of integrating simulation-based training with an inter-professional approach. Recent studies have shown that physicians trained with simulation provide a higher level of care in resuscitation/cardiac arrest, improve efficiency of team performance, and reduce the rate of medical error, thus minimizing patient harm.

The Queen’s Experience

In an effort to stimulate inter-professional team training in resuscitation within our EM residency program at our academic teaching hospital, an annual simulation-based resuscitation competition named “The Simulation Olympics” was launched as a pilot project following the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Simulation Olympics, now in its 6th year, has become a popular three-day simulation-based competition with associated preparatory training sessions, where inter-professional teams comprised of individuals from across our hospital compete against each other in standardized resuscitation scenarios.

Now in its sixth year, the Simulation Olympics competition has grown in scope and size with no less than 100 resident trainees, medical students, teaching faculty, staff RNs and RTs, paramedics, and technicians participating annually. With support from the Associate Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education, the CEO of Kingston General Hospital, and numerous PGME Program Directors (EM, Critical Care, IM, Anaesthesia, Pediatrics), the Simulation Olympics has permanent annual funding approaching $30 000. Far exceeding the original vision of creating a novel and fun atmosphere to learn for EM residents at Queen’s, the competition has served as a vehicle to promote the development and implementation of team-based simulation training initiatives at our academic teaching centre. It has become a fantastic annual showcase of awesome talent and grows more exciting each year.

The Extension to CAEP

CAEP 2014 Simulation Olympics
CAEP 2014 Simulation Olympics

Stemming from the success of the Simulation Olympics at Queen’s University, “The Simulation Olympiad at CAEP” was launched in 2012 in Niagara Falls. Six Emergency Medicine resident teams from across the country competed for the “national title”. Special thanks goes to Karen Woolfrey (Scientific Chair 2012), Vera Klein (Executive Director CAEP), and April Taylor (Taylor & Associates) for listening to my crazy scheme and sharing in the vision of what a Simulation Track/Simulation Olympiad competition could become. The resident team from McGill University was the inaugural winner in 2012, and following their lead, the University of Ottawa won in 2013 in Vancouver, and the University of Toronto won the 2014 competition in Ottawa.   This year eight teams from EM programs across Canada will be competing at CAEP (May 30th – June 3rd) for the 2015 national title. Good luck to all of them.

By many measurements, the Simulation Olympics competition at Queen’s and the Simulation Olympiad track at CAEP have been a success. This is evident in the positive feedback from participants and faculty involved, the funds generated to carry out both events, the involvement of numerous trainees, hospital staff, medical and nursing faculty, and the support of senior administrators at Queen’s University, Kingston General Hospital, and the CAEP organizing committee. Perhaps most importantly, both events have served as catalysts to bring together medical educators to develop, implement, and evaluate additional simulation-based team training initiatives.

Lessons Learned

The implementation of the Simulation Olympics and Olympiad has also come with numerous lessons learned. The organizational and funding framework required to execute this event, with respect to scheduling trainees, hospital staff, and acquiring multiple faculty, technician time and equipment, to make both events happen on an annual basis has been a constant challenge. With university, hospital, and simulation company budgets becoming less flexible with each passing year, the ability to offer innovative simulation-based educational programs depends upon keeping major stakeholders engaged in meaningful resuscitation team training initiatives. One secret I’ve learned over the years is to invite them to the events and let them see the action for themselves. Once exposed to the excitement and energy, they know there’s no turning back.

Future Directions

Moving forward, it is important to realize that with the right vision and enough hard work, faculty educators can develop and implement successful, well-executed, innovative, and well-funded educational projects. I can guarantee the participants (residents, students, faculty etc) will be extremely satisfied with the investment in their education. I encourage anyone interested to start thinking of how you might integrate meaningful interdisciplinary team training in resuscitation within your own EM training program.

One last thing…there’s lot of great simulation expertise in EM across Canada. Tap into the help and experience that’s out there. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at CAEP or at any other time. I’d love to support you starting something new and great at your institution as it relates to simulation-based education. It’s well worth the time and effort!

Remember…Less talk, more do (my favourite sim slogan).


  1. Dagnone JD, Takhar A, Lacroix L. The Simulation Olympics: a resuscitation-based simulation competition as an educational intervention. CJEM 2012; 14(6), 363-368.
  2. Dagnone JD, McGraw R, Howes D, Messenger D, Bruder E, Hall A, Chaplin T, Szulewski A, Kaul T, O’Brien T. How we developed a comprehensive resuscitation-based simulation curriculum in emergency medicine. Med Teacher 2014; 1-6, Early Online.
  3. Villamaria FJ, Pliego JF, Wehbe-Janek H, et al. “Using Simulation to Orient Code Blue Teams to a New Hospital Facility.” Simulation in Healthcare: The Journal of The Society for Medical Simulation 3.4 (2008): 209-16.
  4. Walter E, Howard V, Vozenilek J, et al. “Simulation-based Team Training in Healthcare”. Simulation in Healthcare. August 2011:6(7):S14-S19.
  5. Capella J, Smith S, Philp A, et al. “Teamwork Training Improves the Clinical Care of Trauma Patients.”Journal of Surgical Education67.6 (2010): 439-43.
  6. Hunt EA, Shilkofski NA, Stavroudis TA, et al. “Simulation: Translation to Improved Team Performance.”Anesthesiology Clinics25.2 (2007): 301-19.
  7. Lighthall GK, Poon T, and Harrison TK. “Using in Situ Simulation to Improve in-Hospital Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”Joint Commission Journal on Quality & Patient Safety 36.5 (2010): 209-16.
  8. Long RE. “Using Simulation to Teach Resuscitation: An Important Patient Safety Tool.”Critical care nursing clinics of North America17.1 (2005): 1-8.

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