Between the Patient and Politics – A Ready-to-Use Simulation for Human Service Practitioners

Daniel J. Mallinson, Erin O’Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background. Caregivers in human services fields operate within a space between their clients and the larger social forces that shape clients’ lives. Empathetic practitioners should learn to identify both personal circumstances and larger systemic forces (e.g., economic inequality) beyond their control that influence patients’ circumstances. Aim. This article presents a novel two-phase simulation that can be beneficial for increasing empathy and policy knowledge among pre-practitioners in a variety of human service fields. Method. We use a mixed-method design to evaluate the impact of a pilot study (n=9) of the simulation. First, pre-, mid-, and post-event surveys are used in conjunction with t-tests to determine changes in overall empathy and knowledge. Second, we use feedback from the first-phase debriefing and end-of-program focus groups to identify emergent themes. Learners role play a state legislator or interest group and must develop legislation to address shortages in physicians and nurses. Result. We found evidence of increased knowledge of the policymaking process and understanding of how politics relates to individual healthcare access challenges. Evidence of gains in empathy were not apparent from the quantitative measures, but were expressed in participant debriefing. Conclusion. The framework presented is flexible enough to adapt and be implemented for a variety of policy problems across a diverse array of human service fields. It shows promise in raising knowledge and potentially empathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-870
Number of pages16
JournalSimulation and Gaming
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications


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