University of Alabama at Birmingham: Promoting youth mental health through simulation-based learning

In December 2021, the United States Surgeon General issued an advisory on the country’s youth mental health crisis, stating that after the COVID-19 pandemic, more than one in three students now experience mental health challenges. In response to this increase, faculty members at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are implementing a new simulation-based learning experience.

Fellows in the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology and students from the Department of Social Work in the College of Arts and Sciences will now undergo a child and adolescent mental health simulated training in an emergency room setting.

“Through the simulation, social work graduate students and child and adolescent psychiatry fellows receive hands-on experience in providing acute mental health care to child and adolescent patients,” said Blessing Falola, M.D., assistant professor and director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Program. “Trainees learn to demonstrate interprofessional communication and determine the appropriate care in an emergent situation.”

During the simulation, Falola and Laurel Hitchcock, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Social Work, provided instruction, directed the debriefing process, and reviewed trainees’ learning goals and feedback on the interprofessional collaborative patient care experience.

The simulation was first piloted in April 2022 in collaboration with the UAB Center for Interprofessional Education and Simulation. After a successful pilot and receiving positive feedback from trainees, the simulation will return in fall 2022 and become a part of the curriculum for both programs.

“The knowledge, skills and perspective learned from this experience will strengthen the interprofessional collaborative teamwork often encountered in the emergency room and ultimately lead to quality patient care and satisfaction,” Falola said.

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