Exploring health service preparation for the COVID-19 crisis utilizing simulation-based activities in a Norwegian hospital: a qualitative case study

Une Elisabeth Stømer*, Peter Dieckmann, Thomas Laudal, Kristi Bjørnes Skeie, Sigrun Anna Qvindesland, Hege Langli Ersdal

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic caused stress in healthcare organizations worldwide. Hospitals and healthcare institutions had to reorganize their services to meet the demands of the crisis. In this case study, we focus on the role of simulation as part of the pandemic preparations in a large hospital in Norway. The aim of this study is to explore hospital leaders' and simulation facilitators' expectations of, and experiences of utilizing simulation-based activities in the preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This is a qualitative case study utilizing semi-structured in-depth interviews with hospital leaders and simulation facilitators in one large hospital in Norway. The data were sorted under three predefined research topics and further analyzed by inductive, thematic analysis according to Braun and Clarke within these pre-defined topics. Results: Eleven members of the hospital leadership and simulation facilitators were included in the study. We identified four themes explaining why COVID-19 related simulation-based activities were initiated, and perceived consequences of the activities; 1) a multifaceted method like simulation fitted a multifaceted crisis, 2) a well-established culture for simulation in the hospital was crucial for scaling up simulation-based activities during the crisis, 3) potential risks were outweighed by the advantages of utilizing simulation-based activities, and finally 4) hospital leaders and simulation facilitators retrospectively assessed the use of simulation-based activities as appropriate to prepare for a pandemic crisis. Conclusions: The hospital leadership’s decision to utilize simulation-based activities in preparing for the COVID-19 crisis may be explained by many factors. First, it seems that many years of experience with systematic use of simulation-based activities within the hospital can explain the trust in simulation as a valuable tool that were easy to reach. Second, both hospital leaders and simulation facilitators saw simulation as a unique tool for the optimization of the COVID-19 response due to the wide applicability of the method. According to hospital leaders and simulation facilitators, simulation-based activities revealed critical gaps in training and competence levels, treatment protocols, patient logistics, and environmental shortcomings that were acted upon, suggesting that institutional learning took place.

Original languageEnglish
Article number563
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Hospital leaders
  • Institutional learning
  • Simulation facilitators
  • Simulation-based activities


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