Drexel University Master of Science in Medical Simulation at INACSL & Sim Summit – Now Enrolling!

master of medical simulation

Interested in obtaining a Masters Degree in Healthcare Simulation?

Drexel University College of Medicine’s Master of Science in Medical and Healthcare Simulation Program currently has a booth at the INACSL event in Orlando, providing a coffee break tomorrow. The program is actively enrolling students and is still accepting applications for Fall 2014.

About the Program:

The Master of Science in Medical and Healthcare Simulation (MSMS) program is a unique, two year program which is the first of its kind to offer advanced training in simulation teaching, curriculum design, and the fundamentals of simulation research. This degree program will prepare the student for an academic career in medical simulation via quality effective simulation based healthcare education, research, management, leadership and teamwork skills. The blended instructional approach consists of primarily online coursework combined with three, week long on-campus immersive simulation practicums.

The goal of this program is to provide the scientific and educational foundation to expose and prepare graduatelevel students with background training in healthcare for a transition into an enduring productive educational and research career in simulation. This program is intended for individuals with prior training and/or experience in healthcare to provide a much broader base of education in simulation based medical education than currently exists in one format anywhere else in the country.

Faculty in the MSMS program will be from interprofessional simulation experts from within Drexel University’s School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, the iSchool and the College of Medicine. In addition, there are also individuals from a variety of healthcare professions and educators locally and nationally who will teach as instructors. The Master of Science Degree in Medical and Healthcare Simulation (MSMS) will provide students with a core, detailed focus on the many facets of simulation based medical education while simultaneously providing those students with multiple options to pursue related areas of interest upon graduation.

Faculty from the Drexel Med program includes leading experts from our field of medical simulation:

Sharon Griswold-Theodorson, MD, MPH, a board-certified emergency medicine physician. Her interests include how the implementation of simulated clinical experiences can improve health care education, clinical patient outcomes & #patient safety. Learn more here.

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Suzan Kardong-Edgren, PhD, RN, ANEF, CHSE – Suzan is an internationally known thought leader & sought-after speaker in simulation. She received the highest honor in nursing education for simulation from the National League for Nursing in 2010 and serves as a consultant on the landmark National Simulation Study. Learn more here.

D. Scott Lind, MD – Scott is the chair of the Dept. of Surgery. He has pursued clinical interests in breast cancer & melanoma, & educational topics, particularly the use of simulation in medical education. He has published more than 130 papers & book chapters & has given more than 100 regional & national presentations. More click here.

Roberta L. Hales MHA, RRT-NPS, RN – Roberta is a simulation educator at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she is involved in program development, scenario design & simulation facilitator training. She has lectured on pediatric simulation education at the local, state, national & international level. For more, click here.

Komal Bajaj, MD – Komal is a member of the faculty at the Institute for Medical Simulation & Advanced Learning (IMSAL) & an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Her simulation interests include in-situ drills, debriefing complex clinical scenarios & ultrasound based simulation. Click for more.

Kymberlee Elles-Montgomery, DrNP, CRNP-BC, CNE – Kymberlee specializes in interprofessional education initiatives that foster communication & collaboration across disciplines to improve patient safety, quality of care & decrease medical errors. She is board certified as a women’s health nurse practitioner. Click for more.

Jami Smith, MPA, Med, PA-C – Jami is not only the academic director but also a simulation educator. She has experience as an assistant professor & academic coordinator, & as an emergency medicine physician assistant. Her research focuses on the use of simulation to incorporate active learning strategies into graduate and post-graduate levels. More here.

If you are not at the INACSL nursing simulation event, the Sim Division of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine will be presenting workshops and posters at the Canadian Simulation Summit in Toronto in September.

Check out the Drexel Med Facebook Page to see the latest and the Drexel Med MSMS website page to learn more!

Canada’s SIMone Ontario Simulation Expo Starts Early-Bird Registration

sim one ontario simulation

Early-bird registration has opened for Ontario Canada’s SIMone expo — which has been called Canada’s “largest gathering of simulation champions” and is taking place this year in Toronto December 4th and 5th.

simulation canada

About SIMone:

SIM-one—the Ontario Simulation Network—is a not-for-profit organization that connects the simulation community, facilities, resources and services across the Province of Ontario. SIM-one advocates for and advances simulated learning in health professions education for the benefit of patient care and patient safety. Supported in part by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC), SIM-one’s vision is to further position Ontario as the global leader in healthcare simulation. SIM-one provides valuable services to the healthcare simulation community, including education and training, research grants, the SIM-one website, and networking events such as the annual Ontario Simulation Exposition.

More about the SIMone Expo:

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The Ontario Simulation Exposition (SIM Expo) is Canada’s largest gathering of healthcare simulationists

SIM-one’s annual SIM Expo is a special time of the year when everyone in the healthcare simulation community—from educators to researchers to technicians to industry—comes together to network and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The special theme of this year’s SIM Expo is “Simulation & Communication”.

Special Features:

  • Engaging keynote speakers – past speakers have included seniors care advocate Samir Sinha, and Dave Williams, a Canadian astronaut and CEO of Lakeridge Health
  • Interactive learning sessions, including simulation workshops, a poster crawl, and the popular Simulation in Action
  • Exhibitor booths featuring innovative simulation products and services
  • Simulation awards ceremonies
  • And, most importantly, plenty of time to connect and network with like-minded professionals

The 2014 SIM Expo will take place on December 4 & 5 at the InterContinental Toronto Centre Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.

Learn more at the sim-one.ca SIMone Expo Webpage!

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ICF International Provides Medical Simulation Strategies to U.S. Military

icf medical simulation

Since 2007, ICF International has partnered with the U.S. Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) in providing support to the Air Force Medical Modeling and Simulation Training program, a system-wide network designed to deliver leading-edge basic medical education and continuing training to all medical personnel. ICF provided assistance in developing the hub and spoke organizational network that formed the basis for information sharing and lessons learned. ICF’s 2007 baseline assessment of simulation staff and equipment for 80 Military Treatment Facilities and 5 affiliated university-based Level 1 Trauma Centers assisted in developing an initial gap analysis and follow-on equipment procurement strategy.

ICF has continued to provide program management and operations support to Air Force and civilian-affiliated simulation centers, assistance in identifying and tracking performance metrics, and validation research on effectiveness and new technology development. ICF tackled the challenge of incorporating standard taxonomies and classifications for simulation-based training operations across the AFMS and implemented the use of a standard curriculum development process, a broad set of simulation training templates, and full-array of associated learning evaluation tools.

icf healthcare simulation

From the ICF Website:

“The training of medical personnel is critical to saving lives. New learning strategies and technologies are being introduced to the medical community with the intent of ensuring that medical personnel are well-prepared to face ever-increasing challenges—whether at home or on the battlefield.

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ICF brings the knowledge and expertise to its clients with:

  • Systems Approach—based on proven instructional strategies and integrated with advanced training technologies
  • Sound Instructional Approach—combined with the right technological solution to achieve top performance when practicing medical procedures
  • Leveraged Research—to advance state-of-the-art medical simulation and training technology, including exploration of simulation-based gaming technologies and advancement of authenticity in medical simulations

ICF’s approach begins with an analysis of training and performance requirements and adheres to the proven principles of instructional systems design. We bring specific learning objectives, learning activities, performance assessment, and feedback in order for learning to take place.

Our design and development efforts are driven by the learning requirements as well as the customer needs and any constraints (such as financial or schedule). Once we have developed the training, we evaluate the effectiveness of the training in terms of achievement of desired results. We are solution-neutral and focused only on achieving the desired results.

ICF uses an interdisciplinary team comprised of instructional systems designers, performance technologists, medical experts, and technical experts in simulation technology, all focused on delivering performance improvement. By staying abreast of advancements in methodology and technology, we leverage those advancements to deliver state-of-the-art solutions. Through modeling and simulation, we conduct research in virtual environments and apply innovative applications of these promising approaches to training tasks.”

Learn more about:

Short Video: Resident Education in Ultrasound Using Simulation and Social Media

ultrasound simulator training for residents

Earlier this month Dr. Jason Nomura posted a fast-paced 15-minute review of resident education in ultrasound training using simulation and social media on youtube. I have previously written about how social media has been effective in a nursing school, so I was eager to learn how it could play a part in resident training. This is a great short presentation on these two topics:

About the video: “There was a session at the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine 2014 Annual Meeting focusing on education in Point of Care Ultrasound. There were several speakers and I was asked to speak on resident education, particularly to focus on simulation and social media and how it fits with EM Resident ultrasound education. This is a fairly large and broad area to cover in 15 minutes or less.

I chose to focus on how to simulation and social media can assist in education and deliberate practice to get learners to an “expert performance” level. The information may not be new to people who are familiar with simulation or social media. My goal was to show how these things can be helpful from a conceptual and design view for education. Also to provide information that you can use if you have to justify to others why social media or simulation is important to your educational program and why it should be supported.”

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I learned more about Jason from his website http://takeokun.com:

Jason T Nomura MD RDMS FACEP FACP FAAEM is a Board Certified Physician in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine.  He currently practices at a large tertiary care facility with over 160,000 annual Emergency Department visits per year.

Dr. Nomura serves as the Director of the Emergency Medicine Ultrasound Fellowship and the Associate Director of Emergency Ultrasound.  He also serves as educational and research Faculty for the Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine – Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine – Family Medicine, and Internal Medicine Residencies.

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Drexel University Offers New Graduate Program in Healthcare Simulation

medica simulation graduate program

The Drexel University College of Medicine Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies recently launched a new graduate program offering a Master of Science Degree in Medical and Healthcare Simulation. This unique program offers advanced training to healthcare professionals to prepare them to teach others how to care for patients in simulation practice environments rather than practicing on patients.


Healthcare simulation can be defined as the opportunity to practice outside of patient care to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services. “The goal of the program is to provide a scientific and educational foundation that prepares graduate-level healthcare providers to foster an enduring, productive educational and research-oriented career in simulation. We intend to educate the next wave of leaders in simulation education to better train future generations of healthcare providers,” said Sharon Griswold, MD, MPH, director of the new graduate program.

This master’s program is intended for individuals with prior training and/or experience in healthcare to provide a much broader foundation of education in simulation-based medical education than currently exists in one format anywhere else locally, nationally or globally. Specifically, this program is geared toward:

  • Individuals with healthcare experience, such as nurses, physicians, physician assistants and paramedics who desire additional professional development in simulation education
  • Individuals currently working in healthcare education looking to advance their careers
  • Healthcare providers looking to transition into a new educational career in simulation

The two-year, part-time program’s curriculum is delivered in a blended instructional format. The majority of courses are delivered online. In addition, three one-week intensive simulation practicums take place at the Center City campus at Drexel University College of Medicine. The degree provides students with a core, detailed focus on the many facets of simulation-based healthcare education. Additionally students will be provided with multiple options to pursue related areas of interest upon graduation.

Pulled from the Drexel Website:

About the Medical and Healthcare Simulation Program

The Master of Science in Medical and Healthcare Simulation program is a unique, part-time, two-year program that is the first of its kind to offer advanced training in simulation teaching, curriculum design, and the fundamentals of simulation research. This degree program will prepare healthcare professions to further their academic career in healthcare simulation via quality effective simulation based medical education, research, management, leadership and teamwork skills.

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The innovative instructional approach consists of a blended curriculum of online coursework combined with three on-campus week-long immersive simulation practicums.

Is Medical and Healthcare Simulation for Me?

Our goal is to provide a scientific and educational foundation that prepares graduate-level students for transition into an enduring, productive educational and research-oriented career in simulation. This program is intended for individuals with prior training and/or experience in healthcare to provide a much broader foundation of education in simulation-based medical education (SBME) than currently exists in one format anywhere else locally, nationally or globally.

Applicants to the Medical and Healthcare Simulation program include students who may be the following:

  • Resident and fellow physicians
  • Physician assistants, nurses, and nurse practitioners
  • Attending physicians
  • Individuals already employed in health sciences industry
  • Individuals looking to transition into a new career

What Skills Will I Learn?

While completing your Master of Science in Medical and Healthcare Simulation, you will learn several skills to help you in your career. Through this program you will be able to:

  • Use simulation as a training and educational tool for others
  • Empower others to transfer what they’ve learned through training scenarios to the workplace to improve services and increase patient safety
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your teaching in simulation
  • Behave and communicate more effectively as part of a team, particularly in a crisis

Click here for more information on faculty, curriculum and how to apply to the Drexel Medicine Simulation Graduate Program.

Clinical Simulation Association of Mexico

medical simulation in mexico

Today while looking at simulation organizations from around the world I came across AMSIC: Association Mexicana De Simulacion Clinica, or The Mexican Association for Clinical Simulation! While I haven’t kept up on my Spanish I was able to use Google Translate to visit through the site. The association website holds meetings, blogs, resource links and more.


AMSIC is a non-profit organization created in 2007 with the main objective of promote research, application and scientific development of clinical simulation as a training strategy for professionals in health sciences in Latin America.

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Its board is represented by different Latin American countries and also for various health disciplines. What makes this partnership develops in an environment a collaborative and inclusive work. Promote and share the academic experience and research in clinical simulation in various Universities and / or clinical simulation centers with academic endorsement in the Latin American context, disseminating the findings and teaching strategies for educational development in health sciences.

For Spanish speakers, interested parties, or medical simulation champions in Mexico – please visit http://www.amesic.org.mx/ to learn more!

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Simulated A.I. From “Her” Demonstrates Our Future Technology

simulated ai

As a film-maker I truly believe that good science fiction captures the collective psyche of a generation’s imaginations about the future. That being said I thought it would be interesting for healthcare simulation champions to consider the simulated Artificial Intelligence (AI) that Spike Jonze created in his latest Academy Award Nominated picture “Her”. The picture takes place in the not-to-distant future, when protagonist Theodore installs a new “OS” marketed as “unique as its user”, replacing his robotic sounding Google Glass-esk personal assistant who had previously read his emails and set his schedules. Now, the new simulated AI takes on the name of Samantha, who continues to learn every second she exists.

In the first moments of the trailer we get to see Samantha come to life as she meets Theodore for the first time.

The personality of Samantha quickly develops as she explores the web, engages in conversation with Theodore, and watches the world around her through a video camera phone. The speed at which she learns is quite amazing to watch unfold, as Samantha reads all of Theodore’s previous written works and selects the “best of” content which she secretly ships to a famous publisher.  As the relationship evolves Theodore and Samantha become closer and even begin to date, which is hinted in the trailer above.

Why I believe this has so much merit to medical simulation is the reality that eventually, access to such simulated AI will not be “sci fi”, but in fact the norm. Healthcare educators will be able to program patients with a certain set of boundaries and allow the scenario to run itself — knowing that the AI can handle any and all possible questions posed by learners, some of which even the educator themselves did not think of. Thus, the continued evolution of medical simulation technology will eventually include the utilization of simulated AI as patients, family members and other healthcare providers.  This coupled with technology such as 3D immersion (which is already here via Oculus Rift) will present new healthcare professionals with the opportunity to experience simulated environments and scenarios with an ever thinning barrier between simulation and reality. I believe that technology will continue to increase its disruption of healthcare and will eventually force the entire system to reform. What changes do you think will result to staffing, educational process, and role responsibilities?

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Towards the end of the picture, Samantha connects with other AI’s including one based off of Alan Watts, who collectively decide to leave behind the “slow” relationships with humans in-order to pursue a more efficient future. The picture does not explore what this means for the human race or the new AI collective, leaving that world’s unknown future — unknown. As medical simulation champions are comfortable exploring similar unknowns, we may have to be part of the group that helps the rest of healthcare do the same.

Here are some thoughts by Anthony Carboni of the Discovery Channel on when AI will become a reality (with a lot of interesting links in the youtube comments):

If you are interested in exploring the future of AI in simulation, I recommend this film to adults interested in exploring such human-technology relationships!

Interested in more technologies which will enhance medical simulation? Check out: 

Face Substitution Has Potential For Medical Simulation

medical simulation virtual mask

TechCrunch recently posted an awesome video of “Face Substitute”, a small side project programmed by Audun Mathias Øygard. This webapp fits facial models to faces in images or videos. The implications to simulation are obvious here, where educators could put on a “mask” to help portray characters during distance learning courses.  Suddenly, you really do look like a completely different person, but can still speak and move as normal. After watching the video below, try it out for yourself by visiting the Face Substitute webpage.


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“FaceSubstitute is a tech demo that lets you use your webcam to try on someone else’s face and it’s just as creepy/awesome as it sounds. The app currently has 17 different faces for you to “wear”, from celebs like Nicolas Cage and Brian Cranston to stranger, cartoony masks like “Picasso”, or “Abstract” that intentionally distort your face in the freakiest of ways.”

Check out the full TechCrunch article here and visit the Face Substitute page to try for yourself!

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U.S. Navy Show “Scrubbing In” Takes Us Inside San Diego Bioskills Simulation Training Center

navy medical simulation

This U.S. Navy produced show “Scrubbing In” highlights a recent visit of the Bioskills Simulation Training Center at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA.

The new episode features host Paul Ross, BUMED deputy public affairs officer, participating in training at the Bioskills Simulation Training Center at Naval Medical Center San Diego. “The goal of this episode is to showcase some of the training that helps keep our medical personnel ready to provide care in a variety of situations,” Ross said. In the episode, Ross is put through a simulated medical code, as well as a birth and treatment of battlefield injuries. “I didn’t realize how challenging simulated training was going to be,” Ross said. “The toll it took on me was very surprising. It was stressful and realistic, which is what makes it so valuable.”

About This Episode:

The high-fidelity simulators featured in the show allow medical personnel to work in real-life type environments while at the same time allowing room for mistakes to be made because the whole goal is readiness and education. “I learned the purpose of this state-of-the-art training center is for our service members to recover from mistakes on simulators so that they can get it right when it counts,” Ross said. In the episode, Ross is introduced to the training center by Cmdr. Gerald Platt, chief of Emergency Medicine for Naval Medical Center San Diego. Platt explains in the video that there are specific reasons they train this way. “That’s how we do it when a patient really comes in like this,” said Cmdr. Gerald Platt, chief of Emergency Medicine at Naval Medical Center San Diego. “You can see it’s kind of controlled chaos. [There are] a lot of things that have to happen. Everyone has to stay calm even though someone is dying in front of you. That’s why we train to it like this.”

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The show, which typically runs between seven and 11 minutes, takes viewers around the Navy Medicine enterprise to showcase what its medical personnel do each and every day. It gives a glimpse of the myriad aspects to the Navy Medicine mission.

Visit the Bioskills Simulation Training Center webpage.

About the Show:

Scrubbing In, brought to you by the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, takes you around Navy Medicine to show who we are and what we do. In this episode, Paul Ross travels to the Bioskills Simulation Training Center at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) to show how Navy Medicine personnel use simulators to provide realistic training. Paul participates in a simulated medical code, the delivery of a baby, and treatment battlefield injuries. (Produced by U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Visual Information Directorate, published Feb. 27, 2014). (Note: This show has nothing to do with MTV’s show with the same name).

You can watch previous episodes of Scrubbing in through this DoDLive.Mil link!

Why Do Healthcare Simulation Programs Hire Sim Techs Without Technical Backgrounds?


*UPDATE* – A huge number of responses agreeing with this article can be read here!


Last week I received this email from a HealthySim reader who wished to remain anonymous regarding a concern that medical simulation programs seem to lean towards hiring for clinical experience rather than technical experience:

Dear Lance,

We’ve never actually met, but I’ve followed your stuff for a long time on HealthySimulation.com.

I’ve been a Sim Tech for about a year and a half coming out of a education and engineering background. Being a Sim Tech is fun and rewarding in its own rite, but the pay and the current role that I play at my current institute is terribly low and underplayed, respectively. I’ve noticed more Sim Centers looking for some medical credentials in Operations level candidates so that also makes it tough to move on. This is the current view of the facility I work at as well.

What advice can you offer to those of us who see a future in Simulation, but seem to be hitting a brick wall in terms of advancement? 


HealthySim Reader


Well HealthySim Reader, know that you are not alone in your insights above and that this staffing issue has been a topic of discussion for many years now. Way back in 2010 when HealthySimulation.com started, one of the first articles I wrote was entitled “What to REALLY Look for When Hiring a Sim Tech“. There, among other tidbits of opinion I shared the following:

“Over the past two years I have spoken to dozens of nursing departments looking to hire a simulation technician for their labs. I am always surprised to learn when these groups require applicants to be a registered nurse. I remind them to consider that they already have plenty of faculty who understood the nursing process, but what they didn’t have was someone with years of advanced computer hardware, programming, and A/V experience. Stretching their team to include a team member with a completely different set of skills, especially ones that their department was critically lacking, would expand the whole department’s ability to utilize simulation. “

In another article written two years ago entitled “Top 5 Questions I Am Asked About Managing a Medical Simulation Program” I was asked by IT directors “When can do I get to stop supporting the medical simulation program on campus – I have fixed 80% of the issues but the remaining 20% never seems to go away?”. There I remind us that the “remaining 20% is what ongoing maintenance through updating, debugging, reinstalling, backing up, de-fragging, cleaning, and generally operating is what a permanent Sim Tech all about. Running a medical simulation program means dealing with technology, which is rapidly changing and usually unstable.  Hiring a Sim Tech is worth every penny – and then some. Having a line item in your budget for at minimum a part-time IT support person should be built into your simlab budget not now, but yesterday.”

Yet still to this day I receive communications like yours asking “Why do some simulation programs insist on a healthcare background for their technology specialist?”. First, let us remember that there are a GREAT deal of unknowns for healthcare educators and administrators embarking through their experience of managing a healthcare simulation program. In all likelihood, they themselves did not receive such computerized or simulated training during their own educations, and so the knowledge gained from personal experience of simulation operations can be almost non-existent. To consider the implications of this, let’s turn to Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” which shares:

“Why are humans often caught off guard by or slow to recognize the rare and novel? Partly because built into the very nature of our experience is the propensity to extend existing knowledge and experience to future events and experiences. To exacerbate this natural propensity much of our cultural education both formal and otherwise is built upon historical knowledge forced on us by others.”

Thus, healthcare groups who administrate healthcare training or educational departments first thought when creating job descriptions is to hire someone who knows healthcare, because that is the “extension” of their knowledge into the unknown. I would say that this is actually the correct assumption up until the point that operation of technology is involved — where from there is a “historical” gap of knowledge regarding the technical experience and skill sets necessary to manage IT, A/V, computer software and more. So simply put here, one is more likely to hire for what you know, then what you don’t know.

What does all of the above mean for healthcare administrators and clinical educators in the modern age? The U.S. Department of Labor reports that “currently, the average age of a nurse in the United States is 50 and nearly one-quarter of physicians in a 2007 nationwide surveyed were 60 years or older”. While technology integration has clearly entered into mass-adoption by all generations including ‘baby boomers’, by no means were the bulk of today’s senior healthcare educators natively born into the ‘digital age’ — as opposed to say current youngsters who grow up glued to ipads for hours on end. In other words, the deeper understanding of technology and what is necessary to make technology work by those who have spent their careers in non-technology-based work will –most generally– be very limited. Taleb notes here that to go against known “historical knowledge” opens the door for large consequences, which requires “more robustness” to break through. Thus, risk-aversion may prohibit your simulation program from moving forward for some time.

Before continuing, let me share that some of the best simulation technicians I have met have a primary background in healthcare. Why those simulation technicians succeed is why any simulation technician succeeds in this emerging professional career: because they showed up to work every single day excited to learn and share something new. In all of my articles about best hiring practices for medical simulation staff, I always conclude by saying that beyond the numerous benefits of technical or administrative experience, the most important thing administrators can do for their program is to hire individuals who “will never get tired of learning”. Endless innovation though means constant change, and change is hard.

This issue, therefore, goes beyond hiring. I must be honest and share that I have encountered healthcare educators in charge of simulation programs who treat technologists like tools, rather than actual people. This unprofessional behavior actually extends beyond technicians to include program managers and administrative assistants as well. I have found that the programs with such arrogant administrators almost always lose their simulation staff within three years. I have encountered countless stories of simulation staff who have quit a job they truly love because of a serious lack of communication, unsupportive work environment or absence of personal and professional respect. In my own past as a Simulation Technician I myself have quit high-paying medical simulation jobs because I soon realized the leadership of the employing institution did not really support the simulation program, my position, my years of technical experience, nor my long-term career in general. The reality was that for whatever reason, money had been put into the shiny simulation equipment with no thought to program development, educational outcomes, daily operation or utilization. Allen Giannakopoulos, Corporate Director for Reengineering and Redesign at Baptist Health and SSH Treasurer, reminded us at HealthySimAdmin that in 2009 a survey of medical simulation program administrators found that only “about half had ongoing operating budgets”. Thus, this problem goes beyond just an understanding of technical staff, but of simulation staff in general.

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But with specific regards to communication, how can we expect the level of respect necessary for technical staff if we are talking about an industry that cannot even fully respect its own community as the expected standard? The horror stories of deeply failed and sometimes egomaniacal communication practices between doctor vs. doctor, doctor vs. nurse, nurse vs. nurse, and provider vs. patient are I believe mostly to blame for why Medical Errors are now the 3rd leading killer of Americans. (To learn more about this, read “Beyond The Checklist” for countless examples of such healthcare communication errors and how the aviation industry dealt with the issue fifty years ago — Healthcare in general needs a wakeup call to the modern age, and technology is exposing that more now than ever before).

Of course, not all healthcare simulation programs have enabled this kind of thinking. Just speak to any of the Sim Techs or simulation operators who attend SimGHOSTS and you will be connecting with personnel from a program that “gets it”. 85% of 2013 attendees to the SimGHOSTS 2013 event responded they had “strong to strongest influence of simulation technology lab purchases”. Thousands of simulation centers around the world have realized that by empowering simulation technicians and program managers, they will see among other benefits: better learning outcomes, increased efficiency with higher utilization, and more staff retention. Vendors like B-Line Medical, Pocket Nurse and Laerdal, who continue to sponsor SimGHOSTS events know that investment must go beyond their equipment and supplies, to the people who will put them into best use. Having visited hundreds of simulation programs around the world and met with thousands of simulation administrators, the noticeable difference between those who succeeded and those who did not was simple. More on this below….

So how do we encourage innovative thinking in organization’s that are missing the “technology” piece of the puzzle?

Art Markman, PhD, the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and editor of the journal Cognitive Science, has some concepts for us here from his post on Harvard Business Review entitled “Do You Know What You Don’t Know?“:

“In psychology, we call the cognitive barrier the illusion of explanatory depth. It means you think you fully understand something that you actually don’t.

No matter the scale, discovering your explanatory gaps is essential for aspiring innovators. An undiagnosed gap in knowledge means you might not fully understand a problem. That can hinder innovative solutions. To discover the things you can’t explain, take a lesson from teachers. When you instruct someone else, you have to fill the gaps in your own knowledge. But you don’t need to wait for the opportunity to teach someone else:

Explain concepts to yourself as you learn them. Get in the habit of self-teaching. Your explanations will reveal your own knowledge gaps and identify words and concepts whose meanings aren’t clear.

Engage others in collaborative learning. Help identify the knowledge gaps of the people around you. Ask them to explain difficult concepts, even if you think everyone understands them. Not only will this help you to work through new ideas, it will occasionally uncover places where your colleagues don’t understand critical aspects of an explanation. When you do uncover these gaps, treat them as learning opportunities, not signs of weakness. After all, successful innovation rests on the assumption that you and the people around you have a high-quality understanding of the problem. Sometimes, uncovering the flaw in that assumption will help you find a solution.”

Thus, from Dr. Markman we can see the need to is encourage administrators to go beyond their historical knowledge to include innovative thinking. In a presentation I have given at SimGHOSTS and HPSN, I spend a solid hour sharing how technical staff can guide administrators to increase their support for better program outcomes, increased utilization and happier employees — all through planned communication strategies. Unfortunately, there is no one sentence that can help to make a higher administrator instantly get it. There needs to be a long-term discussion, which you must be willing to accept, may end in failure as some administrators will are not able to wake up to the real needs or opportunities of medical simulation.

I encourage you to reach out to other simulation programs that are similar in size and scope to your institution, and learn what kind of staff structure they have, what kind of operating budgets they entertain, and utilization / learner performance outcome data sets. Then, look at your own scheduling and when the demand for more utilization increases (as it does often in medical simulation), provide comparisons of what the current staff is tasked with and what more simulations would require to perform, against staff structures from other programs. And remember that with administrators, money talks! One key takeaway from my course however is to present administrators who are looking for “Sim Techs” with the following two number ranges:

2013 Average Nurse Educator Salary Range in the United States: $49,512 – $92,912
2013 Average Information Technology (IT) Support Technician Salary Range in the United States: $25,598 – $57,126

Showing these numbers to the administrator I politely point out: “Why would you pay someone almost twice as much for 1/10th the technical experience? You already have twelve faculty who can teach healthcare, what you don’t have is someone who knows how fix the microphone when it won’t turn on. Put another way: Do you really want to pay a master’s prepared clinical educator to spend their entire day trying to fix something a Healthcare Simulation Technology Specialist, at half the rate, could handle in just under thirty seconds?”

Administrators that understand successful leadership means a shared mental model with respect and space for the specialized knowledge to communicate itself are the managers I have seen have the most successes in medical simulation. Steven Speilberg when asked how he had become such a successful film-maker quickly replied: “I hired the right people, and then I got out of their way”. Simply put, admins who are willing to be robust enough to get over what they don’t know about technology, will be the ones to move beyond historical knowledge and learn that there is no simulation center without simulation technology. And there is no simulation technology without a technical-trained simulation technology specialist!

Other relevant articles:

Great Interview Questions When Hiring a Sim Tech

Best Practices for Medical Simulation Hiring

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*UPDATE* – There have been a huge number of responses to this article, which you can read a summary of here!