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.