The number of brand-new shiny, technologically advanced simulation centers popping up around the world is astounding. It is certainly a growing testament to the importance, adoption and recognition of the power the simulation-based education brings to the world of healthcare safety and quality.
What is equally perplexing to me is the amount of meetings, person-hours, drawings, fees paid to architects etc. that it takes to plan a simulation center. People will toil in the detail for thousands of hours to ensure that they buy the biggest, best and most capable simulator, AV equipment and one-way mirrors, color of the floor tiles for the entrance, but don’t put a similar investment of time and money and faculty development. I think there are a number of contributing factors that contribute to this MISTAKE.
Substantial sums of money to put into the bricks, mortar and equipment that goes into simulation centers. Decision-makers are mistakenly led to believe that the equipment environment will do the teaching for them. While there are some intelligent tutoring systems and many technologically advanced simulators that help educators make efficient and effective use of simulation, there still is a dependency upon the educator.
Another common error that I see program make in the design of simulation-based programs is assumptions that people that are already functioning in the role of educators will do just fine transitioning to that in the simulation world. The fact of the matter is simulation-based education/facilitation is a learned and practice skill set that has various components to it that include understanding the psychology of simulation, the technical capabilities of simulation as well the limitations, being artful with facilitation, and forever attentive to the educational objectives that are trying to be achieved through the use of simulation.
I have seen plenty of examples of educators who are great behind a podium doing fabulous lectures and creating great learning experiences that are rendered ineffective when they attempt to facilitate a simulation or conduct a set debriefing session associated with or during a simulation.
Many simulation programs fail at or are slow to achieve their stated aims because they rely on inexperienced facilitation, or educational leaders not familiar with effective and efficient simulation-based education principles. Additionally, the diversity of approaches to simulation leads some to the false assumption that formal training in preparation, practice and demonstration of ongoing skills is unnecessary. This could not be further from the truth, and unfortunately becomes a barrier to many centers.
The road to securing funding for any education based effort in healthcare is a long and arduous path. There is a general ability to generate the funds to buy equipment, renovate and build buildings for simulation based activities. The way of the future is to also introduce during the foundational funding efforts that investment in the people skills is necessary. A planned pathway of development for simulation-based specific competencies must be planned to help a center achieve and/or surpass its goals.
So if you’re in the planning phases of a simulation-based program or in the position to try to increase the efficiency or effectiveness of your simulation-based program, be sure to seek out professional development activities, formalized instruction, preparation and certification for your simulation-based educators. I think that this will help create synergy within your center and prepare you for success in the execution of the simulation activities that you may already engage in, and will prepare you for the future than increase in the efficacy and efficiency of simulation-based education.