BurntOut: Role-Play Simulation for Building Medical Student Resiliency

Period of Performance: 09/15/2017 - 08/31/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Clinical Tools, Inc.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Principal Investigator


We propose to produce a simulation experience to ensure that clinical year medical students are prepared for, have coping strategies to deal with, and are more resilient to the stresses and challenges that await them as they transition to clinical practice and learning in a clinical environment. The experience will guide institutional level change by anonymously communicating students' concerns during clinical training. The product, BurntOut, is a Unity-based PC and Console role-playing simulation in which medical students explore common stresses and challenges in the clinical years of medical school, identify potential coping strategies, make decisions, and perceive negative and positive outcomes associated with those choices. Students gain confidence in how to best apply attitudes and actions that ameliorate the stresses identified, investigate external wellness resources if coping mechanisms fail, and anonymously communicate the challenges to the institution in order to foster institutional change. The need for the product is clear: 1) physician burnout has downstream negative effects on patient care; 2) burnout and resiliency are best addressed early in medical training so physicians recognize poor coping strategies and are resilient to the stresses of clinical practice; 3) burnout and use of alcohol are related, as addressing burnout decreases the risk of alcohol use in professionals; 4) supporting resources exist, but students are often reluctant to seek help and express concerns at an individual level; and 5) wellness centers for undergraduate medical centers need feedback from clinical year students to guide institutional change that can decrease burnout. The specific aims of Phase I demonstrate product feasibility and acceptability via usability and alpha/experience testing of a functional prototype. Phase II completes the agile development of BurntOut and a case-control evaluation.