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This article is the author’s final published version in Frontiers in Public Health, Volume 11, July 2023, Article number 1202598.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2023 Dopelt, Shevach, Vardimon, Czabanowska, De Nooijer, Otok, Leighton, Bashkin, Duplaga, Levine, MacLeod, Malowany, Okenwa-Emegwa, Zelber-Sagi, Davidovitch and Barach.


BACKGROUND: Successful management of public health challenges requires developing and nurturing leadership competencies. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of training simulations to assess public health leadership and decision-making competencies during emergencies as an effective learning and training method.

METHODS: We examined the effects of two simulation scenarios on public health school students in terms of their experience (compared to face-to-face learning) and new skills acquired for dealing with similar emergent situations in the future. A mixed-methods design included developing a validated and pre-tested questionnaire with open-and closed-ended questions that examined the simulation impact and the degree of student satisfaction with the conditions in which it was conducted. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with the students after going through the simulations. The questionnaire results were evaluated using descriptive analytics. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analyses. All data were collected during June 2022.

RESULTS: The questionnaire results indicate that students strengthened their interpersonal communication skills and learned about the importance of listening to the opinions of others before formulating their positions. Four themes emerged from 16 in-depth interviews, according to Kolb's experimental learning cycle. Students emphasized the effectiveness of experiential learning versus traditional classroom learning. The simulation scenarios were felt to realistically convey critical issues regarding leadership, decision-making, and teamwork challenges. They effectively conveyed the importance of building a culture of conducting substantive and respectful discussions.

CONCLUSION: Simulation is a powerful pedagogical training tool for public health leadership competencies. Simulations were seen to be advantageous over face-to-face learning in imparting a range of leadership skills and hands-on practice. We recommend integrating simulations in all public health leadership training programs.

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