August 14, 2023By Erin Carn Bennett

How to Start a Healthcare Simulation Program From Scratch

To start a healthcare simulation program from scratch may seem like an insurmountable task, particularly if the individual or team is not experienced in the field of clinical simulation. Building a new medical simulation center from foundation to implementation can bring excitement and fulfillment to a healthcare simulation educator. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett will explore concepts to consider to start a clinical simulation service from the start. The goal of this article is to be supportive of those in low-resource locations as well as those new to the healthcare simulation space.

Starting With Available Resources

A good place to start is to know if there is any budget for equipment or staff for the healthcare simulation service prior to planning. There may be no budget, and that should not put off those with an idea to innovate and grow a clinical simulation service. There can be ways around these restrictions. The healthcare simulation global community is incredibly generous in many ways and is here to help.

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If there is no budget for staff to be paid, passionate individuals involved in the process may need to get creative in the use of time to set up the clinical simulation service. Creative ways to make the groundwork happen for a clinical simulation service can be made with determination. Once a budget becomes available, even if minuscule, be purposeful with plans for the money. For example, even one day a week for a staff member is a great place to start and expand in the future.

Review Opportunities to Influence Leadership

Hopefully, there has been an expressed need or desire for healthcare simulation education to be started in the workplace organization from a leadership or managerial position. If this is not the case, then prioritize obtaining the support. Leadership support is a key part of the process of building a clinical simulation service. If leadership requires persuasion, there are plenty of research articles that can be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of healthcare simulation on many facets of clinical care. Clinical simulation was at the forefront of the preparation of clinical staff during the Covid19 pandemic to expand care capacity for patients.

Engage the organization’s quality, health, and safety committees and leaders for a different perspective. Healthcare simulation can be sold as a way to identify risks to patients by doing clinical simulations in clinical spaces and to explore the perceived or actual risk without risk to patients. Identified risks can provide feedback to quality, health, and safety teams without patient risk. If there has been an organizational issue that requires education, clinical simulation may be able to be utilized to improve patient care.

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Seek Mentorships and External Resources

The initiation of a healthcare simulation service from the start can be a lot to handle and consider. Beyond the ample resources available from and the company’s non-profit media partners, consider the possibility of mentorship or professional supervision, either in a professional or casual manner, for support. Consider what support surrounds the organization, either locally or internationally, for this role. To have a mentor who is experienced in clinical simulation design, delivery, and management as support will be invaluable in the start-up phase particularly.

As much as it can be nice to have the latest and greatest technology and highest fidelity simulators, this equipment comes at a great financial expense. There may be a budget for this in the service, which is great, and by all means, consider this for the clinical simulation service. However, there are many lower-cost simulators available now with only slightly less fidelity which may also appeal. If there are budget restrictions, then consider approaching larger organizations for second-hand manikins either for purchase or donation.

Mentorship or clinical supervision by an experienced healthcare simulationist at this stage will be incredibly useful and wise. The design of the foundational structure for the clinical simulation program is imperative for success. The structure can always be altered as the clinical simulation program grows and can be adapted regularly. The structure may include the clinical simulation team members and their roles. The foundation of the program will also include what type of clinical simulation that will be done and for what stakeholders.

Investment in the clinical simulation workforce is incredibly important when building a healthcare simulation team. There is an entire INACSL healthcare simulation standard dedicated to professional development. The most important items on the team will always be colleagues, not the shiny, new technical items. Investment in the clinical simulation team members may include compensation to attend courses and conferences.

However, for some geographic areas, the availability for staff to attend in-person education may even pose challenges. There are a lot of high-quality courses available online for team members to continue their professional development. and SimGHOSTS have a lot of free and reasonably priced online courses and webinars. A lot of clinical simulation organizations also have courses available online and in person with equitable fees for lower-income countries. Of course there are a plethora of helpful books on the topic as well.

On the Sim Nurse NZ Podcast Episode 4, Trish Wood and Dr. Gabrielle Nuthall from New Zealand share how they built the Douglas Starship Simulation programme and have some incredible tips for those at the start of building a clinical simulation service. There are plenty of healthcare simulation podcasts available for those who enjoy listening!

Another concept to plan is the methodology of debriefing that will be used for the clinical simulation service. Roussin and Weinstock (2017) have a ready-made debrief modality for different clinical simulations called “Sim Zones”. This foundational document may be incredibly useful to use as a structure while starting out so that everyone is communicating the same language so there is less potential for confusion.

View the LEARN CE/CME Platform Webinar Important Considerations When Designing a New Simulation Center to learn more!

Know what is currently in place for education in the institution that is proposed for the healthcare simulation service. Get to know the educators and network with them. As the clinical simulation service starts, the educators will be a useful link to get clinical simulation started.

This article has explored concepts to consider and provided some tips when starting a clinical simulation service from scratch. For many, a simulation centre and a large budget are not the reality but that does not mean that a clinical simulation service cannot be grown, and can blossom into a special and highly efficient service.

Learn More About Healthcare Simulation Centers!


  • Roussin CJ, Weinstock P. SimZones: An Organizational Innovation for Simulation Programs and Centers. Acad Med. 2017 Aug;92(8):1114-1120. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001746. PMID: 28562455.

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