As a healthcare professional, participating in a medical negligence trial is an intimidating and stressful prospect, exacerbated by the fact that many have never been in a courtroom. To meet this learning need, our institution runs a Mock Trial inter-professional learning event (IPE) designed to give law students and medical, nursing, pharmacy, public health and other healthcare professions students exposure to a medical negligence trial and the opportunity to learn about, from and with each other as they collaborate as a jury to reach a verdict. To continue to deliver high-quality inter-professional education during the COVID-19 pandemic, transition to the virtual platform was required. Important lessons learnt from this process can be applied to the effective planning of similar virtual events.
The aim of the study was to effectively transition a large-scale in-person inter-professional Mock Trial simulation to the virtual platform to increase the accessibility of simulation education during social distancing and beyond.
Subject matter experts from the local law school and a university-affiliated Office of Inter-Professional education (IPE) jointly developed content for the Mock Trial. Students enrolled in the virtual Mock Trial were given pre-course jury instructions, IPE objectives and technical connection information 2 weeks before the trial. Law students, the judge and simulated witnesses received script materials 1 month prior to preparing. Facilitators participated in a virtual ‘crash course’ training 1 week before and a 15-minute pre-huddle just prior. Jurors (the students) watched the trial via Zoom and then were put into inter-professional breakouts with a facilitator to deliberate. All returned to the main room and verdicts were delivered followed by a debriefing session. Facilitators also debriefed after the event conclusion. Pre- and post-assessments were completed by students.
The in-person Mock Trial event was conducted in 2018 and 2019, but was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. In the 2021 learning event, 11 individuals were in person in the courtroom with the remaining students (143) participating via zoom. These 11 individuals comprised: one judge, four law students (two defense, two prosecution), five witnesses and one administrator. Social distancing/masking rules were obeyed. One witness participated via Zoom. Student and facilitator evaluation data, including assessment of IPEC competencies, were comparable to previous in-person events. This effective translation of a large-scale simulation event to the virtual platform demonstrates the utility and increased access to learners of this modality and will form a useful part of our simulation education toolkit post-pandemic.