Empowering healthcare professionals to return to work through simulation training: addressing psychosocial needs

Publication piece on the preliminary findings of a simulation bootcamp for doctors returning to work.

A. Saunders, J. Brooks, W.E. Alami, Z. Jabur, C. Laws-Chapman, M. Schilderman, C. Tooley, C. Attoe (2020)


  • Interprofessional working is essential to providing good mental healthcare in community settings. Simulation training is underused in mental health, despite strong support for its improvement of clinical skills, confidence, teamwork, and interprofessional collaboration in other healthcare settings.
  • This paper evaluated the efficacy of a simulation training course for community mental health teams.
  • Knowledge and confidence increased, and emerging themes of inter-professional understanding, attitudes in clinical practice, wellbeing, fidelity in clinical practice and self reflection were highlighted in the feedback.



Doctors report that leaving work often invokes feelings of isolation and sadness, as well as concerns around a lack of support from colleagues and organisations, and even negative views from their families. Although programmes exist to support returning doctors, there is a shortage of evidence-based interventions. This report outlines a training intervention and subsequent evaluation for returning healthcare professionals, in which they can develop their clinical skills and needs as well as their own psychosocial skills and needs.


Facilitators delivering the training (n=6) and researchers not delivering the training (n=2) conducted naturalistic observations of the participants, considering their needs, experience of the training, and the outcomes and impact of the training. Field notes and unstructured observation notes were collected throughout all five days of the training course. A thematic analysis of observational data was conducted. This was reviewed by the researchers and facilitators, with final emergent themes agreed. A total of 64 participants attended five separate courses running between September 2018 and June 2019 in South London. Of these, 89.4% of participants were medical doctors, 2.1% were nurses, 6.4% were allied health professionals and 2.1% had an unspecified clinical role.


Emergent themes from the thematic analysis were psychosocial needs of learners, psychological concepts as subject matter, and the value of peer support and learning.


Findings highlighted a gap in psychosocial support for returning clinicians, and offered preliminary findings on supporting returners through simulation training boot camps that engage with personal needs, psychological concepts and peer support. To the author’s knowledge, this is the first study to address the psychosocial needs of doctors returning to work. A larger mixed methods study is underway to evaluate the effect of the simulation training boot camp on participants’ wellbeing, resilience, self-efficacy, confidence and knowledge, with additional qualitative methods aiming to understand their experience and development from the training.