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.