Simulation of Shoulder Dystocia for Skill Acquisition and Competency Assessment: A Systematic Review and Gap Analysis

Edith Gurewitsch Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Mastery of shoulder dystocia management skills acquired via simulation training can reduce neonatal brachial plexus injury by 66% to 90%. However, the correlation between simulation drills and reduction in clinical injuries has been inconsistently replicated, and establishing a causal relationship between simulation training and reduction of adverse clinical events from shoulder dystocia is infeasible due to ethical limitations. Nevertheless, professional liability insurance carriers increasingly are mandating simulation-based rehearsal and competency assessment of their covered obstetric providers' shoulder dystocia management skills - a high-stakes demand that will require rapid scaling up of access to quality shoulder dystocia simulation. However, questions remain about differing simulation training schemes and instructional content used among clinically effective and ineffective educational interventions. This review of original research compares curricular content of shoulder dystocia simulation and reveals several critical gaps: (1) prescriptive instruction prioritizing maneuvers shown to decrease strain on the brachial plexus is inconsistently used. (2) Proscriptive instruction to avoid placing excessive and laterally directed traction on the head or to observe a brief hands-off period before attempting traction is infrequently explicit. (3) Neither relative effectiveness nor potential interaction between prescriptive and proscriptive elements of instruction has been examined directly. (4) Reliability of high-fidelity mannequins capable of objective measurement of clinician-applied traction force as compared with subjective assessment of provider competence is unknown. Further study is needed to address these gaps and inform efficient and effective implementation of clinically translatable shoulder dystocia simulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-283
Number of pages16
JournalSimulation in Healthcare
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • brachial plexus injury
  • haptic simulation
  • high-fidelity mannequins
  • Prescriptive instruction
  • proscriptive instruction
  • risk management
  • virtual reality simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Modeling and Simulation


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