Top 5 Questions I Should Be Asked About Managing a Medical Simulation Program

manage a simulation program

Last week I shared the Top 5 Questions I Am Asked About Managing a Medical Simulation Program.  This week I continue this topic with the “Top 5 Questions I Should Be Asked!” Before learning more about HealthySimAdmin, find out the answers to the questions you should be asking of an experienced simulation program manager:

5) How can we better utilize new media production?
4) How can we keep from starting over when we lose someone from our staff?
3) How can we get additional help without increased budgets?
2) How should we plan for changes in technology?
1) How can we run our center more like a business?

Click the link below to read the answers…

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5) How can we better utilize new media production?

We have all heard the saying that a “picture is worth a thousand words”.  Well if that is true, then I would conjecture that a video is worth a million!

Imagine the long-term benefits of video recording trainings, procedures, and other tutorials once and then being able to share them an infinite number of times without having to require additional staff time. For example, does your simulation program provide its new clinical educators any type of training sessions for using the lab’s medical simulation technology? At the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas we had a constant rotation of new clinical faculty who would be utilizing simulation, and so to save staff time we created numerous training videos.  While shooting and editing a video takes additional time up front, once the video is complete and uploaded to youtube for free, it can then be shown hundreds of times with no additional effort.  Watch the example below of the CSCLV’s lectern system orientation video to get an idea about how media can increase efficiency and provide additional learning opportunities:

New media production can also be used to further engage with learners through social media.  Take for example the Maricopa Nursing Program’s use of Stella, a fictional character manikin on social-media, who reminds students about deadlines, additional learning opportunities, and ways to relax before finals.  Utilizing facebook and twitter, “Stella” has become a safe bridge between faculty and students that allows for a closer relationship. Read the article linked above to learn more about Stella.

Additionally, new media productions can also increase realism in your patient simulations.  For example, record audio from the clinical environments your simulations are set in and play it back over the speakers in your sim-lab.  Using new media can be as simple as printing out photos from the internet of wounds your simulated patients need to have diagnosed.  Consider these media production applications for your simulation program:

The possibilities are endless! Check out the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas website to see more examples of new media productions.

4) How can we keep from starting over when we lose someone from our staff?

This is a crucial topic to immediately address for your medical simulation program.  Numerous center administrators have commented to me that they have repeatedly lost years of experienced knowledge when a key simulation champion leaves their program after retiring, relocating or finding a new position.

There are several ways to combat this challenge by having each of your staff members start doing the following:

  1. Update their job descriptions once a year with administrative review.  This will ensure that their evolving position is up-to-date in case of a sudden departure.
  2. Provide monthly training sessions to other center staff demonstrating the performance of key job duties.  This will help “spread the wealth” of knowledge so that other staff members can take over in the case of an emergency.
  3. Create a comprehensive and easy-to-follow “Standard Operating Procedures” manual that outlines key responsibilities and necessary procedure lists.  This will help to ensure a new employee will have a “starting place” for all of the responsibilities of their new position from the previous staff member. At the CSCLV one such S.O.P. was over 35 pages and included directions for turning on manikins and restarting a/v servers. (This document is available to subscribers of SimGhosts.Org).
  4. Have all staff members attend weekly lab meetings where everyone shares updates.  Use these meetings to share staff concerns, ask questions, share the week’s schedule and discuss other matters.  This will also help ensure that other center staff is at least familiar with the process of others on their team.

3) How can we get additional help without increased budgets?


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At the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas was launched in 2009 it quickly became apparent that we would need additional staff to help the expanding mission of our collaborative schools.  Of course the revenue to do so did not yet exist!

On the suggestion of our Gabriel Olivera, our Clinical Lab Coordinator, we immediately reached out to our local chapter of United Way, a non-profit volunteer organization.  After meeting with their personnel and getting the necessary approval from the UNLV human resources department we were able to post a “volunteer position” with the United Way.  Within a month we had three applicants and from that point on had a steady stream of volunteers working at the center throughout the week!  Volunteers love working with simulation as its fascinating technology that provides experience that can be utilized in a variety of career fields. We even found a future hire from our volunteer pool – so consider volunteer options for your institution today!

Next we looked into student workers through UNLV.  Student workers were great because we could find part-time employees who usually had flexible schedules during peak hours when we needed them most.  Student workers were paid hourly and did not receive benefits compensation, which made them very cost effective for the center.  Just be sure to engage in a rigorous interview process for these positions so that you can find quality candidates who will stay with you for the duration of their educational career.

Lastly after about two years the CSCLV had secured enough external revenue to secure a letter-of-appointment hire for a “jack of all trades” center lab assistant.  This individual was specifically hired to cover night and weekend training events and support a variety of staff responsibilities so that they could cover when other department heads were out of the office.  While this appointment did require additional funds, the increased number of external contracts the center could now run with the extra support more than made up for the cost of the position.  Consider how to utilize external contracts to expand your center’s capabilities.

2) How should we plan for changes in technology?

Planning for your medical simulation program’s long-term success demands you consider the guaranteed changes in technology.  Just over ten years ago Google wasn’t a verb and most of us were suffering through Windows 2000 or ME.  Moore’s Law states that computer processing power doubles almost every 18 months. Thus by the next decade processing power will have increased x 32!  Would you use a laptop that was ten years old as your primary office system?

What will this dramatic change in technology mean for manikin hardware, audio-video servers, network bandwidth, pixel ratios and more?  Even if we are standing in a brand-new state of the art simulation center, as medical simulation administrators we are responsible for considering the future needs of our programs.

Funds will absolutely be needed but finding ways of spreading out the costs over time will help ensure you have continued success without needing to be “bailed out”. To do this your lab needs to develop a “technology refresh cycle (TRC) plan” which considers the costs of replacing aging hardware at sections at a time.

What is a TRC? Well let’s say your sim lab had three rooms that utilized a lot of technology.  With your TRC plan you could calculate the costs of replacing major components of a single room in-order of most to least important during a single year.  Repeat this for the two additional rooms for two years following the first to come up with a total cost to the center.  Your IT department and audio-visual integrator should be able to help you with projections for when systems will break down.  Prevent this issue from becoming the straw the broke the camels back by planning ahead.

Of course this is a basic introduction to this concept, one which More detail about this is accomplished will be covered by Ferooz Sekandarpoor, IT Manager for the Centre of Excellence for Simulation Education and Innovation, and I will be covering in greater detail at HealthySimAdmin!

1) How can we run our center more like a business?

Nothing can bring more success to your simulation lab then treating it more like a business.  Consider that at the end of the day as a medical simulation program manager, you have fixed assets and capital costs against which you are attempting to drive a growing customer base.

In a recent survey of medical simulation administrators by Allen Giannakopoulos Ph.D., Corporate Director of Baptist Health South Florida, our community learned that “51% of [Simulation Centers] do not have an annual budget”.  That estimates that half of simulation center administrators do not receive additional funding for increased output.  Who then will pay for the increased costs of supplies, equipment malfunction, staff hours, facilities and administration?

A business that does not eventually “get in the black” and become profitable will eventually go bankrupt.  I am not disputing that your simulation program has an educational mission, but in reality as a manager of simulation space you are operating a business.  You must therefore, plan for ways to decrease costs and increase productivity in-order to gain the revenue necessary to continue to do business for years to come.

Changing the way we think about managing medical simulation and providing the tools to do so successfully is what HealthySimAdmin is all about.  Join Allen, myself and other experts in Las Vegas in October as we share how small changes in thinking can lead to major changes for your medical simulation program.


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