February 27, 2012By Lance Baily

Streamlining Daily Sim Lab Operations

At IMSH I presented Streamlining Daily Sim Lab Operations with Kam McCowan and Darin Bowers.  This course was designed to share strategies to increase efficiency in your sim lab, which is crucial to the long-term success of your program.  As the Director of the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas I shared some administrative secrets to help increase such efficiency.  (The article starts here and is continued by clicking the “read more” link below.)


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First, to ensure your simulation team has an opportunity to discuss daily operations, be sure to create a protected time Monday morning for a weekly staff meeting.  This meeting will provide staff a chance to go over issues from the previous week as well as coordinate for the week scheduled ahead.  Addressing concerns from the previous week will provide an opportunity to develop policies and procedures that will help prevent such issues from repeating in the future.   Coordinating the week ahead will ensure your team is scheduled correctly for the current week’s simulations.  As well, the team will be able to report on equipment, updating each other about items that are out-of-service, new or that need to be ordered.  Be sure to have an administrative or simulation assistant take minutes from the meeting so action items can be given due dates and progress can be mapped.

If possible, include your clinical educators (or facilitators) in these weekly staff meetings so that they can provide additional insight.  If your educators cannot make Monday mornings due to course loads, be sure to hold monthly meetings with them to gain their perspective about lab operations.


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Finding new staff that are already experienced in medical simulation is almost impossible.  The Gathering of Healthcare Simulation Technology Specialists (or GHOSTS) is a new annual meeting dedicated to training Sim Techs in everything from moulage to manikin programming.  Learn more about this new event at www.SimGhosts.Org.

Inevitably, however, you will need find ways to provide some “on the job training” for your new staff.  Beyond weekly meetings where training experiences can be shared encourage your simulation staff to provide quarterly “mini-workshops” for other staff and/or educators.  Have your experienced staff develop “standard operating procedures” or SOPs – which explain in detail all of the necessary responsibilities of their position.  Thus, when experienced staff retire or leave – new staff will have a starting point from which to launch off from.

Ensuring your entire clinical lab team is versed with the operations of your simulation program will help expand capabilities during a staffing emergency.  For example, providing cross-training in simulation operations for your skills lab coordinator, administrative personnel or student worker may just help “save the day” when a technician has to call in sick.  Training, however, should not just be limited to your direct simulation staff but also include educators and learners as well.

Our simulation center runs courses for three schools from two different disciplines, supporting over 75 faculty.  Training new faculty in the process of how simulation is run requires a lot of time and planning.  Save energy by creating video tutorials and training manuals, which will allow users to orient to the space and process without direct staff supervision. Check out this example of an excellent simulation lab operations manual, which Darin Bowers produced for Kaiser Permanente.   Video systems in classrooms are another great area for manuals and ‘how-to’ videos.

At the CSCLV, we have an orientation video for learners for each one of our sim lab rooms as well as faculty-only operational videos that are posted on a secure server.   You can see an example of a medical simulation lab video orientation below:

Document Creation & Distribution

Getting information about updates or needs to everyone involved with your medical simulation department can be quite tricky.  At the CSCLV, we send out bimonthly newsletters with updates from all the various departments.  We also post information in our medical simulation control room as well as upload the information to a ‘faculty-only’ section of our website.  Critical information is handed to each participants of simulation with a clipboard for individuals to initial that they have ‘received’ this information.

Furthermore, as a sim lab may have simulated phone lines and a multitude or non-permanent users – be sure to label all phones in your center with the room number and dialing procedures in case of an emergency.  We also include the number for our in-house IT support.

Scheduling Policies

To further increase efficiency – be sure to create a scheduling policy and procedures document for your sim lab spaces.  How far in advance must rooms be scheduled?  How far in advance for a new scenario that has never been run or tested before? When are scenario details necessary by?  What happens if educators or staff members are late?  If last minute requests are acceptable, then what scenarios are always available and during what times?

Designing and sharing these policies will help ensure you keep simulation staff sane, by providing them an opportunity to know their schedule ahead of time and plan accordingly.  This will increase efficiency and provide better quality service.

Student Workers & Volunteers

Student workers should be considered to expand the capabilities of your professional simulation technology specialists (or sim techs).  Student workers are cost effective and can provide an extra set of hands to get things done.  Your professional simulation team can then focus on managing multiple simulation experiences as opposed to being tied down to only one event.

As well, look into placing an advertisement with volunteer centers in your local municipality.  Volunteers interested in supporting healthcare or technology love providing assistance to medical simulation labs.  You would be surprised how much great work can be accomplished just by taking the time to place an ad and do some interviews!

Purchasing & Equipment

As possible, consider purchasing “high-use” items for every room in your medical simulation lab.  If you only have one piece of equipment that is necessary for two scenarios to run simultaneously then the efficiency of your space is undermined.  Especially if the item in question is under $500 and will be utilized often!

High-use items stoked in every room will save your staff time from having to move items around.  Especially when volunteers and/or student workers can be tasked with restocking items on a bimonthly basis.  Having simulation equipment & medical supplies in cabinets that are on wheels  also makes moving items much easier and faster.

In Conclusion

These are just a few of the many things that can increase efficiency in your medical simulation labs.  Spending time each week considering how labs can increase in efficiency (and realism) will provide many small changes over time that will eventually all add up to one big change!  Sixty new procedures that save two minutes each means two additional hours a week to focus on something else.

And if you have other great ideas, share them with the community by replying with a message below!

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