simulation training tips

4 Things to Look for in a Healthcare Simulation Partner

4 Things to Look for in a Healthcare Simulation Partner 480 360 Level 3 Healthcare

4 Things to Look for in a Healthcare Simulation Partner

Creating a functioning, respected healthcare simulation program can be a daunting task. Technology is an increasingly important part of healthcare education, but when planning a simulation lab, you’re doing more than just outfitting a building with cameras and manikins—you’re planning to meet quality, compliance, and educational standards for years to come.

A successful healthcare simulation lab will require complex technologies that must be expertly integrated. Fortunately, the right technology partner can ease the burden and help you strategize for success. However, it can be challenging to find the right technology company to help you with your healthcare simulation system. Here is what you should look for when evaluating technology integration partners:

  1. Experience in healthcare simulation.

    Ask the simulation technology professional how long they have been working in healthcare simulation, how many projects they do, and whether they have case studies, testimonials, examples, and references you can contact. Find out if they have experience in your lab’s area of specialization.
    Look for AV integration specialists who have had hands-on experience designing, implementing, and managing technology for healthcare simulation. Also ask what else they can do for you. An experienced technology specialist will know about features or services you may not even know you need.

  2. Knowledge of healthcare simulation.

    Beyond the integration aspect, look for a partner that is familiar with simulation education best practices. Technology professionals should understand the goals of both educators and students in using simulation. Those who don’t understand what goes on during a simulation, in the recording room, or in the debriefing room, won’t be able to make recommendations or configure solutions to optimize ease of use

  3. Expertise in all phases of the technology process.

    From planning to implementing and testing to supporting and managing, a technology partner should be willing and able to help at any point you need them. Look for a partner that is able to help with proposals and funding requests and that can ultimately monitor the solutions 24/7.

  4. Focus on customer satisfaction.

    The right technology partner will want to do more than just get the job done and move on. They are willing to answer all of your questions, address concerns, and help create a technology blueprint to guide future technology plans.

Next Steps

Building a new healthcare simulation facility requires a lot of planning and input from various stakeholders. If you want to know more about the phases of planning a healthcare simulation facility, download this white paper.

Download the Facility Planning & Audiovisual Technology White Paper

4 Ways to Optimize Time as an Operation Specialist

4 Ways to Optimize Time as an Operation Specialist 2000 1333 Level 3 Healthcare

4 Ways to Optimize Time as an Operation Specialist

A new hire, a simulation technician for an undergraduate simulation program, attended a manikin vendor’s class on programming scenarios.  She had already been working for many years in various IT roles, so learning the technology used in simulation was an exciting opportunity. The course was attended by over 15 nursing and EMT educators; they were almost salivating at the possibility of one day getting “their own” technician.  These educators had become keenly aware of the demands placed on them in addition to the courses they taught and related responsibilities, and now they were learning a relatively new technology. Before leaving, the simulation technician received several polite invitations to come work for their programs; in the same breath of the invitation was the expression of frustration that they did not have the funds or administrative will to further staff the simulation facility. 

Fortunately, the role of the simulation operations specialist (OS) has evolved quite a bit. Technicians can now earn professional certification in their field (CHSOS) and enjoy key leadership’s appreciation of the importance of the role—so the “will” now exists.  Salaries for the OS roles has improved but not enough to keep their OSs more than two or three years (generally speaking).  When an operations specialist leaves their job, they take their skills, knowledge and experience with them, often leaving a void in the program. 

So, how can simulation program leadership keep their highly qualified operations specialists from moving on to another simulation job? Time.  Time is the most valuable commodity for anyone, but it is also relatively cheap to distribute that commodity in a way that provides value to the simulation program, the operations specialist, and of course, leadership. Even if the budget doesn’t allow for a career-worthy salary, professional development and the time to do it provides a lot of value and satisfaction to the operations staff.  So, how can leadership enrich the operations specialists’ jobs? 

Protected Time 

This may seem strange for what often passes as an entry-level job for many simulation technicians. Providing protected time gives staff the breathing room, during the work week to read articles, simulation books, perhaps write blog posts or engage in discussions with other simulation professionals on organizational forums.  How does this benefit the simulation program? If the OS is not squandering their time playing online games or working a cross-word puzzle, then he/she can learn about new ideas, innovations, develop relationships with other OSs at other simulation programs.  We live in a connected community, so the time we protect can encourage a connection with the greater simulation community. These connections produce opportunities for mentoring, whether your OS is mentored, or is mentoring, either provides an opportunity for professional growth. 

Staff Training 

So many times, educators are invited to attend on-campus training provided by vendors for new simulation equipment, but the simulation technician is not invited.  Such courses are usually limited to a dozen or less, so leadership makes sure that the educators are first in line.  Hard to believe.  The hope is that the faculty “buy-in” to simulation by attending such courses, and for some, it is the nudge that they need.  However, it can also harden faculty resolve to not adopt simulation.  Simulation program leadership would do well to adopt a policy to train superusers first, and they will pass their knowledge on to educators and staff who want to learn more. It doesn’t take long for an OS or simulation technician to become discouraged when they are left out of valuable training.  To avoid frustrating staff, they should be included in training opportunities and be valued as a resource for busy educators who have no desire to dig into the technology itself, but rather want their students to learn.  The educators can then focus their expertise on scenario design and participant assessment/evaluation. 

Time to Learn, Time to Teach 

Too often faculty show up in the control room and communicate their intentions about the simulation activity—sometimes as it is being facilitated. This is a poor practice and only demonstrates the need for consumers of the simulation resources to learn about best practices, and to understand the role of the operations specialist in assisting subject-matter experts (faculty). A simulation technician should be extended the courtesy of having time to learn about the objectives of a scenario, and perhaps even participate in the development of the activity.  Such an intimate knowledge of the scenario and expectations of the educator will improve everyone’s experience.   

Some programs have policies and procedures that prescribe the appropriate amount of lead time and knowledge needed before a scenario can be validated as ready for implementation.  Many programs require at least a week or two to develop a scenario concept into a finished scenario. Other programs recognize that a large undergraduate program with dozens if not hundreds of educators may overwhelm a small staff with constant preparation and validation of new scenarios. Consequently, at least one program required that all scenario design requests not be fulfilled until the following term. 

Many operations specialists find themselves becoming teachers.  Whether the OS teaches new faculty and staff about the simulation technologies and operational policies, or they are called upon to oversee and teach students about the various skills prescribed in the curriculum.  All of this takes time, and without that time it is difficult for anyone to be prepared to engage in such activities.  Preparation time should be built into everyone’s schedule, including the operations specialists. 

With the development of the Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist exam(s), subject-matter experts in operations and technology insisted that some knowledge of instructional design concepts be assessed, even for those who are not expected, or allowed, to “teach.” The realization was that technicians could better support educators if they understood the theories behind the activities being planned. Ultimately, an experienced OS will teach—probably informally, but nevertheless they will teach learners, for example, how to use virtualized scenarios on PCs, teach new staff about the operations of the center, and perhaps even write policies and procedures recommendations. An understanding of educational concepts will improve their chances for success. 

In Conclusion 

The time has come where entry-level technicians and experienced operations specialists know they must plan for their careers.  Up until recently, there were not many opportunities to nurture their careers to be anything more than a low-level technician. Not all operations specialists or technicians are fresh out of school, more and more specialists are older and transitioning into another phase of their lives.  Because there are not many formal pathways for earning a degree to prepare for the role of an operations specialist, and those that do exist are limited to a certificate or associates degree. For operations specialists that have been working in that role for a while, the idea that the CHSOS requires a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) is offensive.  They are already doing the work, why go into debt to learn what they have already learned?  However, for the future of the role to become a professional pathway to a fulfilling career, young adults may not learn everything on the job. Courses and degrees, just as provided for other professions (such as accountants, educators and technologists) will be necessary to give a clear pathway and evidence of expertise.  Combined with experience over time, the professionalization of the simulation technician can be realized. 

6 Standards for Simulation Programs of Any Size

6 Standards for Simulation Programs of Any Size 1900 1082 Level 3 Healthcare

6 Standards for Simulation Programs of Any Size

There are plenty of times when size matters. A bite-sized candy bar won’t always satisfy a sweet tooth and a small business can’t always compete with larger players in their industry. For healthcare simulation programs, however, even a small team with limited funding can succeed just as well as their bigger counterparts. The key is to follow industry-designated best practices.

The International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) recently released Standards of Best Practice for Simulation. Adhering to the standards of operation in particular can make any size simulation program sustainable, while also increasing the return on the investment made in simulation technology; improving outcomes, and; bringing students, educators, and leaders closer to their goals and objectives.

Best Practices to Support Your Small Simulation Program

  1. Define a strategic plan. With an easy-to-follow plan that clearly outlines goals, roles and responsibilities, and desired outcomes, a simulation program can run smoothly even with a small staff. Also address plans for on-the-job training, program evaluation, and how to measure ROI and justify ongoing expenditures. Develop a communications strategy and make provisions for equipment maintenance and replacement.
  2. Empower personnel. Every team member should have the training necessary to set up, operate, and maintain simulation equipment independently if needed. Others who use the equipment—such as educators and trainers—should also be trained to operate it independently. This ensures there is no interruption in simulations and helps relieve some of the pressure on a small team that may already be stretched thin.
  3. Create a management system. In addition to an overarching strategic plan, every simulation-based education program needs a day-to-day plan for scheduling rooms, prioritizing requests, managing operator availability, and setting up and breaking down equipment for simulation exercises. Written instructions for each scenario help ensure operators know what to do and that everyone is following the same system so that educators and students can meet their instructional objectives. Periodically review and seek user feedback on the system to improve as needed.
  4. Manage the budget carefully. The budget requirements of a simulation-based education program go beyond the initial investment in tools and technology. Consider training and operational costs, such as staff salaries. Equipment costs include maintenance, repair, and replacement expenses. Simulation operators can also consider income opportunities to support the program. For example, they can rent the simulation space when it’s not being used internally.
  5. Align the program with organizational goals. The simulation program should be guided by the needs and goals of the organization as a whole. This will increase leadership buy-in and might also allow you to tap into personnel and budgetary resources from other programs or departments. Communicating with stakeholders and participating in initiatives across departments will help integrate the simulation program into the larger organization’s mission, goals, and operation.
  6. Develop sustainable policies and procedures. Create guidelines for everyone people who might use the lab, including instructors, students, visitors, volunteers, etc. Document easy-to-follow guidelines for processes and procedures like data collection and storage, as well as safety information and scheduling guidelines.

Next Steps

Even if your team is small, there are additional resources at your disposal. Our Level 3 Healthcare team can answer your questions, assist in implementing your plan, and help your simulation program succeed. Schedule a consultation today.

3 Ways to Increase Faculty Buy-In for Simulation

3 Ways to Increase Faculty Buy-In for Simulation 2000 1121 Level 3 Healthcare

3 Ways to Increase Faculty Buy-In for Simulation

Imagine someone sitting you down in the cockpit of an airplane and telling you to figure out how to fly it. Seems ridiculous, right? The technology is so daunting and complex, anyone who isn’t a trained pilot would need a lot of help to figure it out.

Sitting a faculty or staff member down in a simulation lab and telling them to run a scenario would be just as difficult and confusing for them—though probably not as terrifying

Without the proper training, simulation technology can be intimidating for educators. They can’t just sit down and figure it out. When faculty members are unsure of how to use a solution such as a simulation system, they are unlikely to support an organizational investment in it. They are also unlikely to use it even if the organization invests in the technology. However, removing common barriers, concerns, and misunderstandings faculty members face can help you improve buy-in and increase adoption of simulation solutions at your institution or organization.

Why Does Buy-In Matter?

Hospitals, clinics, and universities can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on simulation solutions, so the biggest incentive for increasing faculty buy-in for simulation is to make sure you are spending that money on tools educators want—and are therefore more likely to use. Part of improving buy-in and adoption also means addressing some other challenges simulation facility operators face, including a reluctance on the part of leadership to provide funding for equipment maintenance and upgrades. Another issue is often that there isn’t adequate staffing to run scenarios, troubleshoot issues, and provide training.

How Can You Increase Faculty Buy-In?

There are several steps simulation facilitators can take to increase faculty buy-in and adoption for simulation solutions.

  1. Explain the benefits. Incorporating simulated scenarios into their curriculum takes extra time and effort for faculty members, so they will be more likely to do it if they can see what’s in it for them. Benefits include:
    • A more comprehensive curriculum
    • Improved student performance
    • Easier assessment of student competencies
  2. Offer the necessary training. Faculty members who know how to use simulation technologies are more likely to incorporate simulation scenarios into their curriculum. Training should be offered more than once a year or semester and should include how to write and program a scenario, as well as how to run it. If faculty members understand all the capabilities of your simulation solution, it will be easier for them to develop scenarios that support their course objectives.
  3. Provide adequate support. Even faculty members who have been trained to use simulation solutions will run into problems they don’t know how to fix. If those issues take a long time to resolve, educators and learners will lose valuable time, and they’ll have a negative experience with the solution, making them less likely to want to use it again. Educators will have a better user experience and be more likely to use the simulation system again if you address their technical issues as quickly as possible. 

Next Steps

Level 3 Healthcare has a staff of simulation experts who can answer questions about everything from incorporating AV technology into medical training to designing a new simulation lab. Contact us today with your questions.

How to Solve Common Simulation Challenges

How to Solve Common Simulation Challenges 1500 1001 Level 3 Healthcare

How to Solve Common Simulation Challenges

Simulation technology is a hot topic these days, and its popularity is only increasing. Why? Because simulation helps healthcare students and providers prepare for high stakes scenarios in a safe, low-risk environment. Simulation-enabled education and training ultimately improves provider performance and patient outcomes. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its share of unique frustrations. As more institutions incorporate simulation solutions into their training curriculums, more kinks appear that need to be worked out.

7 Common Simulation Challenges—and Their Solutions

Level 3 recently conducted a survey to identify the most common simulation challenges. Below are some of the frustrations, as well as advice from simulation experts on how to solve them.

1. Complicated policies and procedures. Simulations create data and recordings that must be stored and archived properly to avoid liability.

Solution: Creating an official policy for storage of simulation session videos, for example, can help mitigate any risks posed by storing information in the simulation lab itself. For example, all video could be forwarded to the appropriate faculty member and then deleted from the simulation lab server.

2. Exchanging information and following best practices. A lack of standardized training for simulation technology users means the exchange of lessons learned and best practices is critical—but it is also easier said than done.

Solution: Use social and professional networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn to create groups for simulation technology users.

3. Hiring and training qualified Sim Techs. The current lack of standardized training for simulation technicians can pose a challenge when you are trying to hire the most qualified person to round out your simulation team.

Solution: Focus on each individual’s capabilities rather than whether they have a specific degree. Writing a job description that matches the specific needs of your organization will also help you attract and hire the right person.

4. Adequately training staff. Allocating funds for simulation solutions isn’t money well spent if no one can operate the solution. In some cases, a lack of training and confidence may cause faculty to avoid using the solutions altogether.

Solution: In addition to setting aside money, time must also be set aside so staff members can be adequately trained and prepared to use simulation tools to their full potential.

5. Developing relevant scenarios. Having access to simulation technology can enhance the learning experience, but the capabilities of your technology shouldn’t dictate what is taught.

Solution: Educators need to identify their learning goals independent of the simulation tool and then leverage simulation technology to achieve them.

6.Improving access and connectivity. Spotty wireless connectivity in a simulation lab can be frustrating to educators, especially if they only use the simulation system once or twice a semester.

Solution: Hardwiring all the components in the lab can resolve this issue. VPN, conference calling, and remote access software can help provide remote access to scenarios, recordings, and debriefings.

7. Knowing when simulation isn’t the best solution. Manikin-based simulations are convenient and popular, but they might not be the best tool for every training scenario. Even the most thorough, thought-out simulation can’t account for everything a real patient might do.

Solution: Use all the training tools and methods available to you for the most comprehensive, realistic training experience.

 

Next Steps

Want more details about solutions to your simulation challenges and concerns? Level 3 recently hosted a webinar where our simulation experts addressed your most common frustrations and provided informed advice to resolve them. Download the webinar recording to learn more. (Password: Level3HC)

 

4 Ways Simulation Technicians Add Value To Your Organization

4 Ways Simulation Technicians Add Value To Your Organization 1500 1001 Level 3 Healthcare

4 Ways Simulation Technicians Add Value To Your Organization

In a real life medical emergency, wasting time becomes a matter of life and death. In a simulated medical emergency an actual life isn’t on the line but wasted time can still be damaging. If an educator has to spend time on setting up the system, troubleshooting the system, or fixing glitches, time is taken away from critical teaching and learning. Simulation scenarios might be rushed or missed altogether if teachers spend the bulk of their time just trying to get a simulation system to work.

As institutions of higher learning—particularly those involved in medical training—increasingly incorporate simulation tools into their curriculums, investing in a dedicated technician to ensure the system runs smoothly is more important than ever.

4 Benefits You Get From A Simulation Technician  

Educators, IT pros and operations specialists often find themselves responsible for the operation and maintenance of simulation tools under the category of “other duties as assigned.” Many organizations don’t see the point in hiring a dedicated person to do a job existing employees seem to be managing just fine. But just because something is going fine doesn’t mean it can’t be better, and simulation technicians could be the key to unlocking additional productivity and ROI. Here are four ways simulation technicians can add value to your organization.

  1. Educators want to teach, not trouble shoot. Educators often become de facto simulation experts because they use the technology the most. Educators who have to set up and troubleshoot the simulation system are distracted from their core mission—to teach. If a simulation technician were available to prepare the simulation room, boot or reset the system, and address any issues as they arose, educators would have increased time for instruction, grading, mentoring and other responsibilities.
  2. IT departments have enough to do. Almost every IT department already has more than enough to do, and maintaining and monitoring a simulation system will likely fall to the bottom of an already long list. A simulation technician can relieve some of that burden by handling the day-to-day operations of a simulation system and freeing up the IT department to focus on more high-level, organization-wide concerns.
  3. Simulation solutions don’t exist in a vacuum. Simulation systems are not stand-alone tools. They have to interact and cooperate with other technologies, including network connections and AV equipment. Simulation technicians are perfectly positioned to be a full-time subject matter expert not only on the simulation system, but on how it integrates with other components. As simulation subject matter experts, simulation technicians can also advocate for the adoption and incorporation of simulation best practices.
  4. Time is money and sim techs save time. There is a lot of prep work that goes into a successful simulation user experience. It’s not as simple as booting up the system and diving in. For example, a room must be stocked with the right supplies. The simulation system itself has to be prepped and tested. Seamless simulation experiences also require someone to document and implement usage schedules, track and order supplies, work with vendors for support and collaborate with faculty members to understand what they need for each simulation scenario and prepare accordingly. That’s a lot to ask of someone who already has a full job description. A simulation technician, however, has the bandwidth and expertise to keep everyone on track and make sure students receive the necessary simulation training on time and without glitches.

Next Steps

The role of simulation technician is new to many organizations and the level of experience and skills among simulation technicians can vary. Taking advantage of training and certification opportunities, such as those offered by Level3, will ensure your simulation technician has the education and support they need to help you succeed.

FAQs: Answers to Common Questions about Simulation in Healthcare Education

FAQs: Answers to Common Questions about Simulation in Healthcare Education 1500 1001 Level 3 Healthcare

FAQs: Answers to Common Questions about Simulation in Healthcare Education

Simulated training exercises have been part of medical education for more than 2,000 years. While medical and nursing students once learned their craft using statues with “veins” made of blown glass, today’s medical simulation manikins are sometimes indistinguishable from human patients. Simulation solutions allow students to practice, assess, and perfect their skills—from taking vitals to triage to surgery—with no risk to real patients. Video capture designed for debriefing further enhances the value of simulation education by allowing instructors to address specific actions and results.

If you’re considering implementing a simulation system in your institution or organization, you may have a lot of questions about what will be the right solution for you, and what it will take to operate and maintain it. Michael Young is Level 3’s Healthcare Simulation Technology & Operations Consultant and he has the answers to the most frequently asked questions about simulation in healthcare education.

Create immersive learning environments with simulation solutions.

Q: What capabilities do I need in a simulation solution?

A: A simulation system allows students to carry out real-life scenarios in a controlled, simulated environment. If you’ve ever practiced CPR on a “dummy,” you’ve participated in a simulated learning environment. Simulation training is particularly prevalent in medical training because it allows students in both nursing and medical schools to address life-and-death situations—resuscitation, wound care, triage, surgery, vitals monitoring, emergency care and more—without the pressure of actual life and death. Solutions vary in complexity depending on your specific training needs, and Level 3’s proprietary SimStation application can support a range of system configurations. The most basic simulation offering includes multi-camera support viewable on a single screen with real-time audio. Intermediate solutions may allow data from patient monitors, whether real or virtual, to be captured as a video stream that can be recorded, broadcast, or both. More advanced systems are compatible with training manikins that play the role of a patient during a simulated healthcare scenario. In this application, a simulation audiovisual (AV) system would interface with a manikin by automatically receiving a data stream during a scenario session or immediately upon its completion. Simulated events in the scenario—for example, increasing the respiratory rate of the “patient”—are time-stamped and indexed for later review and debriefing. This functionality comes at increased cost.

 

Q: How will simulation benefit my institution?

A: Teachers and students both benefit from comprehensive, hands-on learning. Educators can move away from lecture-focused, one-sided teaching and instead provide an interactive, learner-focused experience that emphasizes practical skills and address real-time student questions and responses. Students benefit from life-like learning environments that allow them to assess outcomes in a controlled way. For example, a nursing student had a strong emotional response when her actions in a simulation led to the “death” of her “patient.” Experiencing and debriefing such outcomes in a controlled, simulated environment better prepare providers to prevent or manage those outcomes in the real world.

 

Q: What is the cost?

A: The first question on the lips of anyone considering a simulation solution is how much it will cost. The cost largely depends on your organization’s needs and application of the solution. For example, how many rooms are involved in your simulation environment and what type of rooms are they? Will you be following one patient from the emergency room to an exam room to a surgical theater? Or do you need to simultaneously track multiple patients in one large area? How many images do you need to capture per second? In a standard simulation, 30 frames/second is usually sufficient, but for more precise disciplines such as surgery, 60 frames/second in high definition is required. Data collection requirements, storage requirements, software/hardware requirements, and your debriefing process will all impact total cost. Considerations include whether you are recording data from the patient manikin as well as portable monitors measuring vital signs, how long you need to store recordings, etc.

 

Q: Will the solution go on our network?

A: IT departments worry about having additional boxes or devices added to their network to support a large simulation system. A simulation system does require network access, but a dedicated simulation AV network behind its own router or VLAN can prevent a slowdown of the larger network. User-based access to a dedicated simulation network—such as requiring user credentials—can help protect the network. In addition, user-based access to a separate simulation network also addresses HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) compliance requirements.

 

Q: What kind of storage will be required for all that data?

A: Because of compression standards, simulation recording file sizes can vary by as much as 500 percent. The length of the recording and the amount of movement captured in the recording are major factors in determining storage requirements. As a general rule, a recording with four video and audio streams would require a minimum of 100 MG per minute or 6 GB per hour. The length of time you need to retain each recording will also determine storage requirements. While most simulation AV systems record onto a network-connected PC, server, or DVR-type device, removable or external media storage capabilities can be built into a simulation system for growth and scalability. While redundancy of recorded files is recommended initially as a precaution, scheduled culling of duplicate files can prevent unnecessary accumulation that eats up storage space.

 

Q: What will it take to use and maintain a simulation solution?

A: The intended use of your simulation solution will determine the type of system you need and what skills and expertise will be required to operate and maintain it. Possible integration with additional technologies, such as manikins, will further inform your operation and maintenance requirements. Once your solution is installed, hiring an in-house simulation technician is highly recommended for ongoing support and operation—especially if your system will grow more complex. AV system integrators should also coordinate with IT managers and network specialists to ensure synchronization on the software side of the system.

Q: What support services are available?

A: Most experienced and qualified system integrators offer various warranties and maintenance service programs to fit your organization’s specific needs and budget. Even if your integrator is not headquartered nearby, a good partner will train and deploy a local AV service technician to troubleshoot issues and perform routine repairs. Be sure to ask your integrator about what project warranties and extended warranties are available, what they cover, and what other options they provide for maintenance contracts and on-site and other kinds of support.

 

Learn more about implementing simulation solutions here.

Why Integration Matters

Ensuring your simulation solution is properly integrated from the beginning will help maximize your investment and learning outcomes. From system design and installation to security compliance, data storage, and more, a qualified simulation technology integrator can set you and your students up for success.

 

Still Have Questions?

Don’t see your question about simulation systems answered here? Ask us below and one of our experts will be in touch soon.

Healthcare Simulation: Cognitive Load in the Control Room Pt2

Healthcare Simulation: Cognitive Load in the Control Room Pt2 1500 1001 Level 3 Healthcare

Healthcare Simulation: Cognitive Load in the Control Room Pt2

We invite you to read Part 1 before you begin reading this section. Part 1 is an introduction to the challenge for the simulationist in regard to cognitive load. Part 2 begins a discussion on the types of technologies that will help address these challenges. 

Part 1 assumes that you as the reader even has experience with the typical control room. The reality is that each simulation program may have the control room layout designed differently. Allow us to provide a little more context for those of you who don’t have a control room.

Facility Design Challenges

A control room will have at least one control “station” and may even have half a dozen or more. Some simulation programs have distributed control rooms that are placed in proximity to one or more simulation training rooms. A central control room that hosts all the control stations has a huge benefit in terms of facility infrastructure design (easy access to power, network, collaboration, support). However, some prefer having a one-way glass placed between the control room and the simulation training rooms so that even without an AV solution, the operator/facilitator can see what is happening in the training room. However, the reliance on glass (one way or otherwise) to see into the room also creates new challenges. If the light is too bright in the control room, learners/participants can see movement, and sometimes see clearly those in the control room, thus creating some distraction to learners and consequently to staff. Other simulation facilities with this setup struggle to see past reflections and glares on the glass. To reduce glare, or transparency, some have decided to turn lights off in the control room altogether, with no light except for the light from the computer monitors. Collaboration, note taking, and even control may be sacrificed or hampered without appropriate lighting.

So, what does facility design have to do with “cognitive load”? In part one, I made it pretty clear the types of distractions and load that a facilitator/operator has to face, and this did not even take into consideration the environment in which the simulator and AV system is being controlled. Removal of distractions in the environment are important, if not critical.

 

Distractions and Solutions:

  • Clutter: The control room and consequently, each control station should be free of clutter. Clutter could include loose papers, notes (not being used), unmanaged cables (network, power, USB, etc.)
    • Solution: each operator/facilitator should pick up after themselves and leave their station clean at the end of each session. Cables should be managed so that feet do not get tangled in them, or that counter/desktops stay neat and tidy.
  • Complex station design where multiple keyboards, pointing devices (mouse, touchpad, etc.), inconsistency between one control station and another, requiring operators to learn the uniqueness of each station, operating system, application location, etc.
    • Solution 1: standardize each control station as much as possible. Use same branding monitors and computers and input devices (keyboard, mouse, microphone, etc.). The operator/facilitator should not have to relearn how to use the hardware (and software,if possible) just by changing to a different station. Each station is typically dedicated to a single simulation training space, but different manikin models and brands may be swapped out between each one. As much as it is possible, each control station can operate any manikin owned in any of these spaces.
    • Solution 2: When multiple computers are required for a control station, reduce multiple keyboards and mice to a single keyboard and mouse by using a KM switch. Switching control between computers can be as easy as moving your mouse pointer from one monitor screen to an adjacent monitor. Adder and Avocent both offer a command and control type KM (where KM = Keyboard, Mouse) switch. These switches can support up to four computers. Avocent has a switch that is smaller where only two computers are needed, and that will save some money.
    • Solution 3: As much as possible, each computer should have the same version of operating system (Windows 10.*, MacOS, etc.) and the computer should only have software related to simulation control. I’ve seen staff members use control station computers to do their office work and sometimes install software, or plugins for the browser. This has a strong potential to create instability with the simulation control and AV software. Control Stations should only be used for control.
  • Speakers from different control stations being used where sound is blaring from one scenario and distracting other operators/facilitators in the control room.
    • Solution 1: Use headphones when other operators are in the same room and more than one scenario is being controlled. When entering the control room be discreet and considerate that your activity does not add to the cognitive load already bearing down on the facilitator/operator.
    • Solution 2: If still designing your center, and the layout of your facility supports it, use a distributed control room model, where each simulation training room has one control station in its own control room. These are smaller rooms, but you will have greater freedom to control what is happening in the space if it isn’t shared with other facilitators like a central control room. However, this does create challenges as well. There are advantages to both distributed and central control room facility design. Consider how you will use the space.

 

Do you have a challenge you would like addressed? Reach out to one of our healthcare professionals here!

Healthcare Simulation: Cognitive Load in the Control Room Pt1

Healthcare Simulation: Cognitive Load in the Control Room Pt1 1500 1001 Level 3 Healthcare

Healthcare Simulation: Cognitive Load in the Control Room Pt1

The Stage:

Let’s face it, simulation control rooms could use a huge makeover; so many distractions can overwhelm most simulationists. Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort being used to accomplish a set of tasks, or just one task. The human brain can only do so much before errors become a part of the effort. So, when a typical OB simulation room has both the mother and newborn simulators, a fetal heart monitor and the mother’s vitals, it requires a means for the simulator operator/facilitator to control the progress and outcome of the scenario; this requires a lot of infrastructure at the simulation control station. In the case of an OB scenario, one person (sometimes two) is (are) required to operate a computer to control the OB simulator, another computer to control the newborn simulator, and a third computer to manage the audiovisual solution that allows the operator to see into the room from multiple angles. On top of this, some configurations may have at least one other computer that is displaying vitals in the patient room, which to some degree must be managed as well.

Behind the Curtain:

For the operator to guide the scenario, they need to be able to see and hear what learners are doing so that appropriate physiological and vocal responses can be managed. Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras may need to target another view of the room, getting another glimpse into the minds of the learners. “How many liters of oxygen did they administer to the patient?” Zoom the camera in to see what the gauge says, but oops, while the operator was doing that, the learners were doing something else in the space, but the operator missed it.

With so many computers, the operator may have to switch between several keyboards and pointing devices (mouse or touch pad). Each computer may have a different operating system, so the operator is having to migrate their attention away from assessing learners constantly, as they navigate between multiple platforms. The operator can also be the voice of the patient, or directing someone else to be the voice of the patient. A male operator uses falsetto to approximate a female patient’s higher voice. The learners giggle as they are not convinced. The learners ask the “patient” several questions, and the operator shuffles through some notes to find the correct response.

I’ve been there. It is overwhelming and at the end of the scenario, I am emotionally and physically spent. Therefore, some simulation programs utilize a subject matter expert (facilitator/educator) to help assess the learners and guide the operator, and in some cases, portray the voice of the patient. Even with two people, there is a lot to coordinate, communicate and monitor.

Scene Changes:

For those of you reading this that have facilitated a scenario using simulators, you know what it means to experience cognitive overload. Operating the scenario is only part of the cognitive load that a typical operations specialist must facilitate. Once the scenario is complete, the simulation space must be setup for the next group of learners. The simulator must be reset, and perhaps calibrated appropriately. What if a simulator has a technical issue? What if the network goes down? What if? Each interval between each scenario are as critical as the scenario itself. Are the props in place? Are supplies present and in the right quantity? This can be a logistical nightmare, as the setting must be complete and ready by the time the learners step into the scenario environment.

Any Solutions?

This post serves as introduction to a series of forth-coming posts that will attempt to address critical factors in reducing cognitive load for the operations specialist. Keep in mind that a faculty member or a simulation educator may not have the “luxury” of having a simulation technician, or operations specialist, so must function as such. This only adds another layer of distraction (cognitive load) as these professionals must think beyond the moment and consider how a scenario might fit into the overall curriculum, and how learner performance should be addressed in a safe environment during debriefing. Join us in the next article as we begin to address technological and operational solutions to cognitive overload. Have questions? Fill out this form here.