Using simulation to increase resident comfort discussing social determinants of health

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Background: Social determinants of health (SDoH) play an important role in pediatric health outcomes. Trainees receive little to no training on how to identify, discuss and counsel families in a clinical setting. The aim of this study was to determine if a simulation-based SDoH training activity would improve pediatric resident comfort with these skills. Methods: We performed a prospective study of a curricular intervention involving simulation cases utilizing standardized patients focused on four social determinants (food insecurity, housing insecurity, barriers to accessing care, and adverse childhood experiences [ACEs]). Residents reported confidence levels with discussing each SDoH and satisfaction with the activity in a retrospective pre-post survey with five-point Likert style questions. Select residents were surveyed again 9–12 months after participation. Results: 85% (33/39) of residents expressed satisfaction with the simulation activity. More residents expressed comfort discussing each SDoH after the activity (Δ% 38–47%; all p <.05), with the greatest effect noted in post-graduate-year-1 (PGY-1) participants. Improvements in comfort were sustained longitudinally during the academic year. More PGY-1 participants reported engaging in ≥ 2 conversations in a clinical setting related to food insecurity (43% vs. 5%; p =.04) and ACEs (71% vs. 20%; p =.02). Discussion: Simulation led to an increased resident comfort with discussing SDoH in a clinical setting. The greatest benefit from such a curriculum is likely realized early in training. Future efforts should investigate if exposure to the simulations and increased comfort level with each topic correlate with increased likelihood to engage in these conversations in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number601
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Graduate medical education
  • Simulation
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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