Just about every successful simulation in the world has one thing in common. No its not a high fidelity design, great curricular integration or a fabulous debriefing. What is it then????? Answer: There was a Simulation Technician involved. Sim Techs are crucial to the success of programs and are integral to any team using significant simulation. Sim Techs come in many varieties in terms of backgrounds, titles, and in some smaller programs, many share one of many responsibilities.
I do have a bias that I will disclose. I started my career as an Electronics Technician in the US NAVY. After nearly two years of Navy training I cut my teeth aboard an Aircraft Carrier, the USS John F Kennedy (CV-67). Now that was truly an immersive learning experience! After I screwed something up one day when we were off the coast of Libya in 1986, the Electronics Materials Officer called me in the office and said “Son, do I have to remind you where this boat is pointed?” me: “No Sir!” him: “Now stop being a technician and join this team as a thinker.”
It is important to engage the Sim Tech in every aspect of the simulation. Too often they are thought of as “just a tech”, but this is a HUGE mistake. Engaged professional Sim Techs are capable of many things that can add value to your program beyond setting up, driving mannequins and cleaning up.
Sim Techs are capable of learning how to evaluate and sort high quality simulation from that needing improvement, or good debriefing to less than good. Dare I say…. They can also be trained to conduct or participate in debriefings in very creative ways. Sim Techs interacting with your participants can help to alleviate anxiety and get ahead of problems before they occur. They can play a significant role in your quality improvement programs. After all, you have to imagine. They see a lot of simulation!
Sim Techs are highly capable at helping to orient faculty and help to get faculty functioning at a higher level. This may include how to operate A/V equipment, drive simulator, or reset a simulation room to be ready for the next group.
Engaged Sim Techs take pride in their work, become embedded into the effort and share in the pain when something doesn’t go as planned. This level of ownership will often help to transition a program into high reliability operation that has everyone beaming with pride.
The Sim Tech community as a whole harbors a huge supply of energy and creativity and love to participate in being a part of solutions. Whether its moulage, creating a special environment, app, smell, video, visual cue, you can call upon the technical community to solve it.
It is encouraging to see a more professional approach to the workforce development of the simulation community. Achieving certification as a Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist (CHSOS) through the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH), can be a great source of professional pride for the technician in addition to ensuring competence in several important areas that well trained technicians should have as a minimum.
I would highly recommend encouraging your technicians to take part in training, attending meetings with other techs and engaging in the available networking can pay off in great dividends. Being current with their knowledge and being able to interact closely with vendors to not only know what is coming out down the pike, but sometimes being able to influence future products are other reasons to make a place in your budget for technician training. In addition to meetings such as the International Meeting for Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH), several high-quality specialty meetings have been created that dedicate a sole focus on technical training from the SSH as well as specialty organizations such as SimGHOSTS. High quality training programs are being offered by simulation centers both in person and on-line such as ours at WISER.
No Simulation Technician is “just a tech” unless the program leadership makes them that. Embrace your technicians. Nurture their professional development and status in and among the team. Push the envelope of their capabilities and creativity to expand into new roles and ownership of your simulation efforts. You will not only be thankful, but wonder why it took so long to realize this is a vital ingredient to the sauce of success of highly capable simulation programs!