Inter-professional Simulation Training to Promote Working With Families and Networks in Mental Health Services

Publication piece evaluation interprofessional simulation in a mental health setting

Kowalski, C., Attoe, C., Ekdawi, I., Parry, C., Phillips, S., & Cross, S. (2018)


  • Working with the families and networks of patients with mental illness is of considerable importance in ensuring well-being and improving morbidity.
  • While guidelines exist to support healthcare professionals to engage patients’ families and networks in care, particularly in psychiatry, there remains an apparent reluctance to do so.
  • This study demonstrates that interprofessional simulation can be used to improve healthcare professionals’ confidence in working with families and support networks, while also giving them new skills and techniques to do so.




Working with the families and networks of patients with mental illness has significant benefits. There are, however, numerous barriers to this way of working, meaning that it is not universally privileged in mental healthcare services. This study evaluated the impact of an interprofessional simulation (IPS) course on working with families and networks on participants’ confidence, attitudes, and perceived future clinical practice.


A one-day IPS course pairing high-fidelity scenarios with reflective debriefs was developed. Simulated patients were engaged to portray patients and family members. Participants were mental health professionals from a variety of medical, nursing, and allied health professional backgrounds (n = 105). A mixed-methods approach to data collection was adopted, comprising pre- and post-course quantitative data on confidence and attitudes towards working with families and networks, and post-course qualitative data on participant experience and learning. Paired samples t tests and thematic analysis were conducted on the respective data sets.


Participants’ overall confidence and attitude scores showed statistically significant improvements with large and medium effect sizes, respectively. Thematic analyses identified several perceived improvements in areas related to the following: personal professional development, interprofessional and team working, and patient care and experience. Key pedagogical features of IPS were also highlighted.


These findings support the use of IPS to improve clinicians’ capabilities in undertaking systemic work while also supporting its ability to alter clinicians’ ways of working in general. The importance of interprofessional and team working for this was also highlighted. Longitudinal evaluation of the training’s impact on clinical practice is warranted.


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