“I Like to Think of Us as the Nexus of Medicine and Theatre”

The Resonance Test 25: Melissa Burke

June 26, 2018
by Lee MoreauKen Gordon

There is so much fear in healthcare. Fear for patients, for the surgeons who treat them, for the families who have to stand by and watch anxiously as a loved one goes under the knife. But for Melissa Burke and her colleagues, fear is to be cut down to size by simulation. Rehearsal. Practice. As the Director of Operations of SIMPeds, Boston Children’s Simulator Program, Burke is obsessed with how simulation can help the players in our #healthcare drama to master their fear. In this excellent conversation with our Lee Moreau, she delves into the tactics, the meaning, and power of #medicalsimulation—and the hope it holds for the future.

• “The hospital’s a really emotional place and being able to quantify emotion in the healthcare setting enables a whole host of new opportunity.”

• “The single thread that joins everything we do at the simulator program is fear.”

• “The whole point of the simulator program is to enable rehearsal, opportunities to reduce fear and anxiety, to create confidence, and to create clinical teams that operate from a very mature state of confidence, and to increase the confidence of parents going home with children who maybe have new lifesaving medical equipment that they need to take with them. Or even to empower the children that we care for in making decisions about their own care or contributing to their care.”

• “We’re creating synthetic patients that look real and feel real, for our clinical teams to learn from. We’re creating psychologically safe environments for clinical teams to be able to make mistakes, admit mistakes, talk about their mistakes. We have human factors experts that use these medical simulations as the reason to have conversations around how to improve a team.”

• “I like to think of us as the nexus of medicine and theatre because we’re creating very lifelike environments, replicas of exact operating rooms or exact ICUs wh ere these teams natively work. And we bring them in and we have them work on synthetic patients that look real and feel real, so their head is in the game.”

• “We also have patients’ families represented, so the mom who spent three months in an ICU can say: ‘Hey, if the headwall isn’t over by the window, my child wouldn’t see the light of day for three months.’”

• “When simulation is done wrong, people feel beaten down. They feel demoralized. But when simulation is done right, the entire team feels like they’re that much better.

• “In our simulation center, we go to Disneyesque length to make things real. So our simulated patients bleed and urinate and speak. And sometimes we use actors, and the level of realism that is elicited when you have an actor playing a patient or an actor playing a parent is so real, I have to look away.”

Host: Pete Chapin
Editor: Kyp Pilalas
Producer: Ken Gordon

The Resonance Test 25: Melissa Burke</

filed in: healthcare, prototyping, patient experience

About the Author

  • moreau lee
    Lee Moreau

    Lee Moreau is a Principal at Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy. An architect and strategist, Lee combines a unique capacity for complex-systems thinking with a deeply empathic perspective, which he uses to critically engage and re-imagine the contemporary world.

    Through research, analysis, and imagination, Lee helps Continuum’s clients understand their entanglement within their own complex set of cultural, material, and economic circumstances. Lee has led service design projects for a diverse group of clients that blur the boundaries between content and experience.

  • Gordon Ken
    Ken Gordon
    Principal Communications Specialist

    Ken makes Continuum’s work visible to the necessary people. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely.

    A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for, the New York Times, and many other pubs.

    Ken has an English degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MA in English from the State University of New York at Albany. He framed both diplomas long ago, but can’t seem to find them now—a fact he considers all-too-human.