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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.