SAGE Learning

SAGE learning

Simulated teaching scenarios create better patient care

Improving the well-being of older adults and helping them age without fear relies on having well-trained professionals who can manage situations with the right balance of professionalism and sensitivity. And, in fact, Baycrest health professionals are renowned for their skillful delivery of care that meets the social, cultural and clinical needs of our patients.

Helping staff hone those skills is Baycrest’s Simulation Activities in Gerontological Education (SAGE), a volunteer-based and geriatric-focused simulation program. SAGE sessions role play a variety of scenarios and situations so healthcare professionals can practice how to assess and manage physical ailments or cognitive challenges in a safe way. They learn and refine skills such as communication, interviewing, assessment, and other interprofessional competencies that lead to better patient care.

Begun as a pilot program by the Baycrest Centre for Education in partnership with Baycrest’s Volunteer Services Department, SAGE now permanently resides with the Training and Simulation Division in the Centre for Education.

At the heart of SAGE is a group of about 20 Baycrest older adult volunteers who have been trained as simulated participants (SP). These individuals play the part of a patient, resident, client, family member or healthcare provider during the training sessions.

“The SAGE SPs bring their life experience to the roles they play, and this allows for authenticity of the simulations. Baycrest staff and students benefit from these exercises as they closely portray real-life situations and offer a safe way to practice skills and competencies needed for the care of older adults,” said Lisa Sokoloff, Manager, Training and Simulation.

Simulations vary. Some take place face-to-face so professionals can hone their skills in counselling, behaviour management or information sharing. Others involve short “trigger videos”, appropriately named because they’re designed to trigger discussions on any number of sensitive topics. These videos are often incorporated into Baycrest’s online e-learning modules, making them accessible to many care professionals who want to sharpen their skills. Other SAGE activities include participant interviews conducted by interns to learn about the health and well-being for older adults as they embark on their healthcare careers.

The SP program, now active for about five years, was helpful simulating online assessments during COVID. As several aspects of care moved to virtual delivery, the SAGE SPs worked with Baycrest neuropsychologists to help them learn how to administer neurological tests via Zoom.

In addition to promoting better patient care, SAGE is a highly unique program that’s also brought global recognition to Baycrest.

“There are two things that make this program unique. First, it’s made up of older adults and second, they’re all volunteers. There aren’t many programs like this anywhere, and we’re sharing our knowledge about our SP program with others in healthcare,” said Sokoloff.

The SAGE program has contributed to international publications and presentations —SPs recently were part of a panel at an international conference for Simulated Participant Educators—and created a documentary about the program, available on YouTube. The SAGE curriculum has been adopted by the Fenway Institute in Boston and incorporated into modules on working with older adults in the LGBTQ+ community. To date, this training has been accessed by over 200,000 healthcare workers in the state of Massachusetts.

“As our SPs are showcased internationally, this enhances Baycrest’s reputation on a global level,” said Sokoloff.

It’s not an easy thing to be an SP. All new Baycrest volunteers participate in a one-on-one screening interview by Volunteer Services. Those who are identified as a good fit for SAGE are further vetted for essential SP qualities and invited to an orientation session.

What makes a good SP? According to Sokoloff, key traits include an understanding that they are contributing to a service for the learning professionals. “They should be creative, adaptable and willing to listen to direction,” said Sokoloff. SAGE is looking for more volunteers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. To learn more about becoming a SAGE volunteer, please contact Baycrest Volunteer Services at 416-785-2500 ext. 2572 or email

Several new projects await the SPs as some face-to-face simulations are resuming safely, continuing a well-established program to enhance training for better patient care.

About Baycrest

Baycrest is a global leader in aging and brain health with a vision of a world where, with your help, we can all Fear No AgeTM.

Baycrest is an academic health sciences centre fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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