Background: Belgian Red Cross (BRC) conducts primary and secondary research to support its activities, including first aid (FA) education, which is a very cost-effective way to improve public health. BRC uses simulated patients in some of its FA courses, but it is still unknown whether this contributes to reaching the learning objectives.
Objectives: to avoid research waste we performed a scoping review to map evidence and knowledge gaps concerning the use of simulated patients in FA training.
Methods: we searched four databases including one educational research database (Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase and ERIC), using a combination of search terms for FA and emergency treatments, education and simulated patients. We included systematic reviews and controlled experimental studies, but not observational studies. We selected studies of FA training to both laypeople and healthcare professionals of any age. The intervention of interest included only the use of simulated patients, that is, real-life people, which was compared to any other form of FA training such as classical learning, the use of puppets and e-learning. Studies needed to report at least one educational efficacy outcome (FA knowledge, skills and/or attitudes). We extracted data on type of participants, the topic of FA education and the type of comparison interventions, but not on study findings as this was not within the scope of this review. Results of the review, in terms of characteristics of the included studies and gaps identified, were discussed with the FA education department at BRC, and compared to the current training practice, in order to determine knowledge gaps that were relevant for practice.
Results: a total of 1617 records were retrieved and each reviewer spent approximately 2.5 days screening. We identified six relevant studies, comparing the use of simulated patients versus puppets (n = 5) or real-life simulated patients versus classical teaching (n = 1), but all involving healthcare professionals. An important knowledge gap was therefore identified concerning the use of simulated patients for FA training in laypeople. Furthermore, BRC uses either a combination of classical teaching and simulated patients or only classical teaching, a comparison for which no studies were identified. Based on these conclusions, we developed a cluster-RCT to study the effect of using a simulated patient in addition to classical teaching, or not, during basic FA training for laypeople at BRC on their knowledge, skills and self-efficacy.
Conclusions: a scoping review revealed an important knowledge gap regarding the use of simulated patients in FA training for laypersons, which we used to inform the design of primary research at BRC.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: the FA education department at BRC and its instructors were involved in selection of the initial research question and outlining the selection criteria of the scoping review.