Over 45,900 people died from suicide in 2020. SIMmersion’s role-play training helps healthcare providers learn to assist patients with suicidal ideation.
Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. One study found that more than 80% of people who died by suicide saw a healthcare provider within a year of their death. So, how do we train providers to help patients who are thinking of suicide? SIMmersion LLC, a leading conversation skills training company, partnered with the Education Development Center (EDC) and the Institute for Family Health to develop a series of interactive role-play simulations to improve training for this critical need. With funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Zero Suicide Healthcare Systems initiative, the team turned evidence-based methods into realistic practice opportunities where practitioners build skills without risking patient safety. These role-play simulations are now available and preliminary studies show the training increases provider knowledge.
Asynchronous Practice for Conversations about Suicide Prevention
Practicing Assessments: Every person who experiences suicidal ideation is different. The first step in providing care to these patients is to understand their life and how it is being impacted by thoughts of suicide. Tools like the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) can help providers gain an understanding of a patient’s experiences, but many providers do not know how to explore beyond the scale’s basic prompt questions.
Role-Player Taye Banks is a fictional patient who identified that she is thinking of suicide in her pre-exam paperwork. Learners practice talking with Taye to learn about her life, her thoughts of suicide, what’s triggering them, and what’s preventing her from making an attempt. Each time a learner starts a new conversation, the simulation randomly selects a different combination of these factors to help providers gain experience helping different patients. Following the conversation, learners practice documenting what they heard and identifying next steps. Learners also receive feedback on how well they connected with Taye and how much information they learned.
Practicing Motivating to Treatment: Unfortunately, not every patient who experiences thoughts of suicide is ready to receive treatment, and the ones who are ready may think they cannot get care because of money or time. Motivational Interviewing is a technique that can help providers guide a patient toward change by exploring both their reasons for and their reasons against change.
Role-Player Katrina Sanderson is a fictional patient who is considering seeking treatment for her thoughts of suicide. Learners practice talking with Katrina to discuss the option of therapy, gain an understanding of what her life would be like with and without treatment, and understand her motivations and barriers to seeking treatment. Following the conversation, learners receive feedback on how well they reflected Katrina’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions and how well they help her share reasons for wanting to change.
Practicing Safety Planning: A safety plan is a list of coping skills that an individual can use to keep themselves safe when they start thinking about suicide. These plans can include everything from self-distraction to calling for professional help. Drs. Stanley and Brown, who developed the suicide safety plan model, found high-quality safety plans reduce the likelihood of hospitalization for people thinking about suicide. But, many clinicians do not have the opportunity to practice building quality, individualized safety plans.
Role-Player Henry Douglas is a fictional patient who has been thinking about suicide a few times each week for six months. Learners practice helping Henry create a safety plan that will work for him. Each time the conversation starts, the simulation will randomly select a list of coping strategies Henry will be willing to discuss and how effective they may be for him. Sometimes he will offer a lot of solutions that he doesn’t think will actually work, and other times he will only offer a few working strategies. Following the conversation, learners receive feedback on how well they supported Henry’s abilities to keep himself safe, explored the effectiveness of the safety plan, and explained how to use that plan.
Accessing the Online Training Systems
Learners can access these suicide prevention training programs, complete with written materials and real-time feedback, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week at https://training.simmersion.com Supervisors and administrators can assign training, track learner progress, and compile reports using SIMmersion’s custom learning management system (LMS).
Training Suicide Intervention
Traditionally, providers have learned suicide prevention skills in workshops with limited practice opportunities or in supervised sessions with real patients. Unfortunately, these models put patients at risk and limit the practice time and supportive feedback needed to develop long-lasting skills. Now, with online training with virtual role-players, clinicians can practice real conversations needed to build and refresh skills without making potentially dangerous mistakes.