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Peak Performance: A Communications Challenge for Medical Professionals

Last Updated: April 16, 2020


The Peak Performance simulation is an experiential learning process designed to help learners and medical professionals develop communication and interpersonal skills that are critical in today’s health care settings. The skills practiced in this simulation have a direct impact on our interactions with patients, how we work with colleagues, and our capacity to lead others. 

How the simulation works: During the simulation, the learner will assume the role of an upper-level medicine resident who is on a hospitalist service, tasked with responding to a variety of patient care, team-based, and personal situations that are communicated via emails, voice messages, texts, and pages. The objective is to effectively address as many of the communications as possible, making the best use of the available time, resources, and information. The recommended process includes (these can be conducted virtually or in-person): 1) Having the learners complete the simulation in 60 minutes. 2) Conducting a 60-90 minute in-class or virtual instructor-led debrief discussion (ideally in small groups). 3) Distributing and having the learners complete the Self-Reflection Workbook. 4) Reinforcing learning in subsequent classes or through 1-on-1 coaching. 

Interpersonal and leadership skills addressed by Peak Performance: The Peak Performance competencies include: Self-awareness, Openness, Collaboration, Communication, Managing Conflict, Managing Others. The simulation and reflection workbook also address the core values of: Empathy, Integrity, Respect. 

The learning process: Completing the simulation is the experience. To drive learning, the instructor can leverage the following: 

  • In class or virtual instructor-led discussion focusing on general observations. 
  • Small group facilitator-led discussions that explore different perspectives, approaches, and insights. 

Completion of the Self-Reflection Workbook and action plan that identifies areas of development. Additional learning tools used by UNC Medical School which have been extremely effective include: 

  • Pre and post assessment to quantify learning. 
  • One-on-one coaching focused on translating lessons-learned into action. 
  • On-line micro-learning to reinforce, practice, and apply learning. 

The materials supporting the simulation include: 

  • A Manual that outlines logistics, facilitation/instruction recommendations, and a debrief discussion guide. 
  • A sample PowerPoint introduction 
  • The Simulation for learners to complete (answer sheet provided in .DOC and .PDF formats) 
  • A Self-Reflection Workbook for learners to complete (provided in .DOC and .PDF formats) 

For more information on how to customize Peak Performance to fit your learning situation, or to discuss access to pre- and post-simulation surveys, coaching support, or micro-leaning reinforcement, educators please contact Mindy Storrie.


Sarah Smithson, MD, MPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine
Mindy Storrie, MBA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School (Mindy_Storrie@unc.edu)
Timothy P. Daaleman, DO, MPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine