I spent a fascinating day last week with some senior NHS clinical staff at a Leadership Development Centre in Leicester. From the outside, the building looks like any other office in the city, and as you go past the smart reception, it still looks relatively familiar, although signs pointing to areas like “Narrative Centre” hint at a something out of the ordinary.

Then, turning the corner and pushing though a pair of double doors, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of an NHS hospital ward, – it even has that disinfectant-like smell like a hospital ward! This one, however is devoid of any staff or patients, but has a number of hidden cameras. Kind of like Big Brother meets ER. In fact, it was built by the same company that constructs the set for the British medical drama-soap, Holby City.

This elaborate and incredibly lifelike environment has been built as part of an “immersive” senior management development programme. Professional role-players act out scenarios involving the real professional staff – often tough, highly emotional scenes, whilst the other delegates observe the video relay, debrief and discuss . Speaking with some of the participants, they were all amazed at how quickly they found themselves “believing” what was happening during the role plays.

My role was to provide some input relating to After Action Reviews (AARs), and to use the role-plays to help the clinicians translate this input into real life – well, it felt real to us!

I was really struck by the power of simulation in learning – we don’t use this nearly enough in business. I was also really encouraged that parts of the NHS are sufficiently progressive to develop their senior staff through such innovative approaches – and are committed to learning-whilst-doing.

Holby City