How to Learn the Medicine Necessary for the Competition

Author: Branden Wilson

Looking for some tips on how to prepare to excel in your medical simulation cases? Hoping to win a simulation competition? Read on for some excellent tips and resources!

Preparing for simulation competitions can be very difficult. You never know for sure what cases you’ll see or in what ways your team’s communication and leadership will be challenged. While preparing for our first simulation competition we ask ourselves questions like “What if we don’t know all the content for the case? What if we don’t know the right dosage of the drug? We haven’t covered the GI or OBGYN systems yet this year.” Obviously, continuing your regular coursework, preparing for big exams such as Step 1 and Step 2, and performing well on your clerkships should form the foundation of your medical knowledge and will help you significantly in simulation competitions. However, the resources offered in this article will give you a boost and help you further strengthen your medical foundation.

First off, it’s important to know what to expect from a simulation competition. Refer to this blog post on what to expect from the competition. It covers everything from how the competition is structured, what the judges expect of your medical knowledge, and how the competition is scored. The article you are reading now will instead focus on how you can optimize your time and find the best resources to learn the highest yield medical information relevant for competition-style simulation cases.

Starting a simulation program at my school was a struggle for me. I lacked experience with simulation and I was studying for boards while managing a busy school curriculum. The obstacles I faced included time management, logistics, and learning the content for the cases. This blog will discuss some ideas to help overcome these challenges as well as provide some helpful resources.


Time Management

Preparing for a national simulation competition, while also managing a busy school curriculum, can be stressful and time consuming.

How can your team prepare?

  1. Create a study table to share the load of content mastery: One way to manage learning all the content for the cases is to split up the information among team members and create a study table. Medicine is absolutely a team sport! Make a list of high yield subjects that are likely to appear in the competition and assign various team members to each subject.
  2. Team Teaching: Take turns teaching each other using a white board. My team mates and I would meet twice a week. One day we would do an hour of whiteboard talk, and another day we would practice cases. By teaching each other what we had mastered from our assigned sections in our study table, we were all able to learn much faster and develop a broad foundational understanding.
  3. Kill 2 birds with one stone…or feed 2 birds with one scone: Another helpful way to learn the content, while focusing on your school curriculum, is to practice cases that follow your school curriculum. For example, if you are learning the cardiac system, do all the cardiac cases.


Learning the Content – Selecting High Yield Resources

The ideal resource will largely depend on where you are at in your education and the level of simulation experience you have. However, regardless of your level of training SIMS has produced many useful resources, including several interactive simulation casebooks which are available for free download on iTunes.

SIMS Primer (download here)

This is a great resource for those new to medical simulation. The SIMS primer has everything needed to start a simulation program. It has information regarding club creation, logistics, and information regarding how to facilitate simulation cases.

SIMS Casebook (download here)

This is great resource for conference preparation. It’s a full casebook with almost 70 peer-reviewed cases. This casebook takes a problem-based approach to help you practice and manage patients with common problems seen in the emergency department. Each case is followed by an in-depth discussion of differential diagnosis pertinent to the patient’s chief complaint. This discussion helps students walk through the thought process of clinical and diagnostic features that help lead a clinician to the proper diagnosis and treatment. Many of the cases in the SIMS Casebook have been used in prior SIMS competitions.

SIMS Blog – You made it! You’re already here!

The SIMS blog has various articles written by leaders in medical simulation. Its purpose is to share “how-to” articles about various topics in medical education and medical simulation. Check out the how to articles on: “Laceration Moulage”, “DIY Wax for wounds and scars”,  and the “Cricothyrotomy Trainer”.

Additional Resources for building a Foundation

Learning medicine is certainly a challenge–hence why so many years of school and residency are required to even begin to develop a mastery of medicine. Here are some useful resources that will help you build a foundation strong enough to help you through cases you are likely to see in a simulation competition and give you a head start in becoming an excellent doctor. Many of the chapters in the SIMS Casebook begin with links to podcast episodes relevant to the chief complaints that will appear in that chapter’s cases. To begin our discussion of helpful resources, I have listed 2 of the best Podcasts available for beginning to establish a foundational knowledge of medicine with particular focus on the deadliest causes of a variety of chief complaints (e.g. chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, etc.).

EM Clerkship

The EM Clerkship podcast was created for medical students. It was created by Dr. Zach Olsen, who completed residency at the University of Tennessee-Nashville.  Dr. Olsen does an excellent job at breaking information down on a medical student level. He will help you establish a great foundation in emergency medicine, and you will master the basics. The podcast can now be found on Spotify. The website has episode summaries, as well as an EM Clerkship guide.

EM Basic

The EM Basic podcast was created for medical students and emergency medicine interns. It was created by Dr. Steve Carroll, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory University. Each podcast begins with a chief complaint just like you see in the emergency department.  Dr. Carroll then goes through history and physical exam findings, the work up, and treatment plan. The podcast can be found on his website or any apple device. The website has episode summaries as well as other resources for students interested in emergency medicine.

Society for American Emergency Medicine

The Society for American Emergency Medicine website is an excellent website for beginning to build your foundation as you prepare yourself for simulation competitions and your clerkships. The website has third and fourth year curriculums that focus on core emergency medicine concepts. Each curriculum outlines approaches to common problems seen in the emergency department (abdominal pain, back pain, and shortness of breath etc.).  It goes through history and physical, differential diagnosis, and treatment plans.

Life in the Fast lane

Life in the Fast Lane is an excellent resource to refer to; however, it is too large and overwhelming to begin to develop a foundation from. However, it is an incredible resource to practice EKG interpretation if that is one area you are specifically looking to improve! The website has informative explanations of various types of rhythms you may see in a simulation competition. I highly recommend testing your EKG knowledge by doing many of the EKG quizzes they have on their website. One quiz to check out is the “Killer EKG quiz” or “The deadliest EKG patterns”.


Know your ACLS!

You can always count on ACLS to appear in your simulation competitions! This certification ensures you have a mastery of the complex management of emergencies relating to the ABC’s (Airway, Breathing, Circulation). You can expect to be tested on these skills in a simulation competition. And remember that you ARE expected to know the dosages of ACLS medications (e.g. epinephrine in cardiac arrest). So, below you’ll find the best resources for learning ACLS, though you may consider just getting certified. Most medical schools in the US will help you get certified before you graduate and go off to residency anyway.

ACLS Certification Institute

ACLS Certification Institute is a youtube channel that has videos on Advanced Cardiac Life Support. The videos provide clinical case scenarios, skills review, rhythm and drug overviews, megacode simulation, and whiteboard lessons


OnlineMedEd offers free videos on their website. Dr. Williams does a really good job at teaching the (ACLS) algorithms. This website is also good for learning other emergency medicine content.


Youtube Channels – For Video Learners

There are several youtube channels that are good resources for learning emergency medicine. Some of my favorite channels can be found below.

EM in 5

EM in 5 is a series of 5 minute Emergency Medicine lectures on high yield topics put together by Emergency Physicians at the University of Chicago. This was a very helpful resource to quickly learn high yield topics in emergency medicine.

Strong Medicine

Strong Medicine is a youtube channel that has educational information about various topics in healthcare. His playlist regarding EKG interpretation is a short (free) EKG course. It has a total of 24 videos including videos on myocardial infarctions, Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome, and Brugada Syndrome. His playlist regarding basic interpretation of chest X-rays is another series of videos to check out. He teaches a systematic way of interpreting chest X-ray’s. He also includes useful images of common pathology seen on chest X-rays.

Rahul Patwari

Dr. Rahul Patwari’s youtube channel was created for medical students interested in emergency medicine. This is a great resource for learning trauma, primary/secondary survey, ACLS algorithms and much more. He has topics discussing everything that you might see in the emergency department.

Let us know in the comments below which resources you have found to be the most helpful!


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