Treating a gasping patient who’s reported severe shortness of breath or a postpartum mother who’s hemorrhaging can overwhelm a nursing student. Fortunately, simulated scenarios take the risk out of practicing in such emergencies. Unfortunately, not all nurse educators are trained to plan and implement these simulations to the same standards.
Scenarios that are too advanced or not properly planned can go wrong for students by creating panic, triggering post-traumatic stress disorder, and even causing them to change their majors.
Simulation is a powerful tool in healthcare education, but without education standards, too many students won’t get the most out of these experiences. If the educators who run the simulation labs aren’t trained to uphold a certain standard, lab experience may harm students by giving them a subpar education or a negative experience with the field.
The State of Education in Healthcare Simulation
There are currently nursing organizations that recommend standards or shadowing programs or that even offer certifications, fellowships, or boot camps to properly train and prepare nurse educators for using simulation in their teaching.
Whether the eventual formal pathway includes some combination of specific coursework, certifications, mentoring, exams, or ongoing professional development, many industry leaders agree it’s time to hash out the details.
The Benefits of a Simulation Standard in Healthcare
Although the creation of a standard is somewhat complicated, the benefits will be well worth the effort. A standard will benefit:
Nurse educators by giving them career stability and assurance. Offering a formal certification or degree for nurse educators gives them confidence that their training can be used at most nursing simulation labs.
Nursing students by ensuring they receive the same quality of education as their peers—because they will be awarded credentials based on the same requirements.
Nursing schools by making it easier to evaluate whether educators have the necessary qualifications to run a successful simulation program.
Healthcare and patients in general by guaranteeing a quality education for nurses. Patients will be able to expect a standard level of care regardless of where they are treated because all nurses will be educated in the same way in their simulation training.
Simulation labs are an important investment for healthcare’s academic institutions. However, if your nurse educators lack the skills or knowledge to properly train students, much of that investment may be going to waste. If you have questions about healthcare simulation or would like to continue the conversation with an expert, email Scott Atkinson, our Simulation Technology & Operations Specialist, at SAtkinson@l3hc.com.
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Nursing Education: Too Many Hats; Not Enough Heads
Many simulationists share a common issue when it comes to day-to-day operations in a simulation. The reality is, many simulation programs are understaffed, and most faculty already have more hats than they can comfortably wear. This has many programs looking closer at the evolving simulation operation specialist role. But where does one find someone with the skills needed without sacrificing an educator position?
The shortage of nursing educators is a well-known concern; but too often the operations specialist role(s) merely become a strategy to fund another nursing educator. Consider roles such as simulation lab coordinator, operations specialist, operations manager; search online for these roles. Candidates are often required to be a registered nurse with a master’s degree (MSN). A look at the actual job skills required, and it has little to do with being a nurse and everything about supporting the many layers of simulation technology: network (wired & wireless), personal computers, server(s), audiovisual, inventory management systems, scheduling systems, etc.
Nevertheless, even while operational roles continue to evolve, many undergraduate nursing programs are hiring adjuncts to bridge gaps. While it is a great opportunity for some nurses to get their foot in the door of a university-based nursing education program; the job is still only a part-time, temporary contract position. Universities, are at fault here. It is appalling to see how little nursing educators earn compared to what they can earn in a hospital. Nurses are wonderful people. And of all the nursing roles, the role of the nursing educator seems to be filled with the most passionate, knowledgeable and skilled people. No one is a nurse educator because the pay is great. It is a calling. Operations Specialists (sim techs) owe quite a bit to our educator counterparts.
The Many Hats
The many hats that nursing educators and operations specialists wear these days has created new opportunities—too often opportunities that are ignored. That is why it is surprising that the requirement that simulation operational roles still favor nurses. Surprising not because nurses are not capable of doing the technical and operational roles, but because the demands, the many hats that are already being worn are often counter-productive to the advantages that simulation brings. Simulation programs that have non-nurse operational staff are discovering that the diverse background that many sim techs / operations specialists bring to the program enhances everyone’s role.
Like nursing educators, operations specialists find their job rewarding, personally. However, few if any are doing the job because the pay is good. There is a higher calling. The biggest difference between these two groups (OSes and Nursing Educators) is that the operations specialist do NOT have a formal path to prepare for career in simulation operations. Those educational programs that exist for simulationists are more focused on the educator roles, with the assumption that operations is embedded in the educator role(s).
In a recent Level 3 Healthcare webinar, Scott Atkinson and H. Michael Young were asked about the best way to prepare to do the job of an operations specialist. The advice that was shared is echoed here: identify the gaps in the simulation program where you work and endeavor to bridge those gaps. That is harder to do than it may seem. Regardless of the job, regardless of the professional field, it is hard to recognize when we do not know what we think we know (yeah, read that a couple of times).
Some of the smartest people realize how little they really know in the grand scheme of things. That doesn’t mean they don’t recognize what they do know, but rather it takes some uncomfortable self-evaluation to admit what one does NOT know. It is not uncommon for college students to figure out that the more they learn, the more they realize how little they do know, and that their world keeps getting more mysterious, not more comprehensible.
On a personal note, that was H. Michael Youngs experience. He has two college degrees, a graduate certificate in simulation leadership and education and am a CHSE. He is an, editor and subject-matter expert in the field of simulation education, operations and technology. However, each day he is reminded by how much he still needs to learn, and he is still trying to find answers to all the questions he has, and the longer his list of questions grow. We know we don’t have all the answers—but we also don’t know all the questions yet either. Only the foolish have all the answers. Here are some principles that have served us well, and hopefully will help you in your journey as well.
Stay curious and realize that you will be learning and growing for the rest of your lives.
If you are wise, you will change your mind more often than you would like.
Be a servant, and you will always have a job.
Make your colleagues look good in the eyes of others. It isn’t about you.
Read, write and practice good communication. It is the best way for people to know you.
Love, like and be generous with your time and talents.
The sooner that an operations specialist (sim tech) can identify the gaps in their own professional path, the sooner they can find ways to fill those gaps. One thing is clear these days, you will find it difficult to find a college degree that would solely prepare you for the role of an OS. Most agree that knowing medical terminology and anatomy are gaps that need to be bridged early in the path to becoming an OS; it is the language we speak. The Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist (CHSOS) was developed around communicating ideas and concepts to improve our ability to work across multiple domains: technology, education, and healthcare. You need to know how to communicate with your IT department, your educators and clinical subject-matter experts.
Collaborate With Us
If you have read this far into this blog post, you are invited to reply on this topic. Rather than providing you with answers to questions that you are not asking (yet), please share what you perceive to be the gaps in your own simulation program? We are not just discussing operations here, as you may see other ways that would enhance your role in the simulation program. At some point, your replies to this post will be reviewed and we can expand the conversation. Here are some questions that will help you get started in finding some important answers about your career; it is ok to use questions to answer these questions.
What knowledge or skill(s) do you lack that would help meet a need in your simulation program?
What in your own professional background has been an asset to your simulation program and should be considered for other simulation programs as well?
Why did you choose to work in simulation operations and technology? (many of us stumbled on it, and it chose us)
What kind of resistance have you received when trying to improve buy-in to new ideas you would like to implement?
What formal education or licensing do you already possess?
Is your job as an operations specialist only a step to your next goal, or have you arrived in your chosen profession?
What would help you most in taking your next big step in your professional path?
How many hats do you wear on a daily or weekly basis? (Is it time for more specialization in operations?)
For more information about the Level 3 Healthcare Education Matrix Webinar, Click the Video to watch and listen the full webinar.
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How Do You Get Certified for Simulation?
Getting certified for simulation isn’t what you think.
Simulation certification is still very new to Healthcare. As the simulation community has grown, defining the standards to ensure someone is qualified to perform a specific task has been at times, challenging. Since healthcare simulation centers can be found in pre-hospital programs, hospital-based programs, nursing schools, and medical schools the challenge is setting standards for certification that can be applied to all the different job environments. As the profession for simulation technicians and specialist has grown so has the movement to establish this group within the structure of simulation programs. Typically, physicians, nurses, and educators have filled most of the roles in a simulation center.
In May 2015, I had the opportunity to take the Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist (CHSOS) exam. I met the application requirements and passed the exam. I joined approximately 60 others having this certification on a national level. I also have the privilege of being part of the committee to define the standards for CHSOS. Since then I have received many inquires into how the certification has benefited my work.
Why do I need a certification?
A simple job search for healthcare simulation jobs will bring you to a list of potential employment opportunities. The majority of these jobs require prior experience or education in a healthcare simulation program. For someone looking for new employment opportunities or trying to improve their knowledge and demonstrate competency, becoming certified is a step in the right direction. The same reason for pursing certification would apply if you were seeking a job as an electrician or an Emergency Medical Technician, you must be able to demonstrate needed knowledge and skills for the position you are seeking. Currently certifications are offered by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH). The certifications are broken down for different specialties. For the educator, Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator (CHSE) and for the operations specialist, Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist (CHSOS).
What benefits does certification provide?
As with any specialized job, having a certification greatly benefits you as a job seeker, and will also benefit the employer by your ability to demonstrate a higher knowledge for the position. Pursuing certification allows you to be exposed to subjects and different methods you may have not been previously exposed to during your employment, bringing you out of your normal comfort zone. Each simulation center is different, and therefore the centers cannot cover all methods or technology available on the market. Being exposed to new ideas, best-practices, and technology will only increase your knowledge, skill set and awareness. Overall the healthcare simulation community has not officially adopted the certification to be a “requirement” for employment. However, I have come across many job postings specifically mentioning CHSE, CHSOS for preferred candidate background. The medical community values higher education, advanced licensures and specialists. Certification allows you to stand out from the crowd. Another potential benefit of certification is higher pay. Certification may allow you to seek higher compensation from your employer for completing advanced knowledge and skills. Wages for the simulation technician have not been on par with the level of education, and training that has been typically required for the positions. This subject continues to be discussed on a national level. Adding a certification to your CV will only help you with current and future employment opportunities.
Are there any other options for advanced training, education, or certifications?
There are several options when pursuing additional training, education, or certification. There are several colleges looking at implementing associates degree programs for simulation technicians. The University of Akron is looking to add a 2-year degree in “Healthcare Simulation Technology,” focused on developing students for a role as a simulation technician. The program was expected to start in Spring 2016. There are several university’s offering a Masters-level degree, but there are very few options for Bachelors or Associates degrees.
Attending local and national conferences is another avenue to receiving advanced training. There are many conferences to choose from; some are industry led others are provided by healthcare organizations. Before attending, research what the classes and content will cover. Look for any certifications that are offered or if any prep-classes for certification exams will take place. It is important to remember attending a conference requires approval, funding, and transportation. Like many centers, staff may only be allowed a limited number of conferences per year. Planning and doing your research will ensure you receive the most relevant certification for the type of work you are seeking. If you do not find the conferences offer enough training, or information, take the time to provide that feedback to the organizers for future planning.
There are specialized courses being offered for simulation technician training from Wiser, United Heart Training Center, and Northwestern University, to name a few. Costs vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on length and location. The length of courses ranges from a few days to a several weeks. Most of the courses provide a certificate for attending. These courses can provide information in preparing for the CHSOS certification exam. It is not a requirement to attend these classes prior to applying for the CHSOS exam.
It is important to remember that nothing is guaranteed by receiving a certification. There are many options for training, education, and seeking an industry-backed certification. Explore all options available to you. Being involved with healthcare simulation we all know learning never stops. We should all strive to achieve more within our chosen professions.