February 14, 2014By Lance Baily

Community Feedback Agrees: Sim Techs Need Technical Background

This week my article “Avoid The Most Common Medical Simulation Hiring Mistake” has already received a lot of great responses from the healthcare simulation community on LinkedIn, especially in the HealthySim LinkedIn group which is now over 1,000 strong!

Clearly the issue of hiring Sim Techs without a technical background is a major issue within our community. HealthySimulation.com and SimGHOSTS have been dedicated to helping increase the adoption and utilization of medical simulation technology — and a major concept within that work is the recognition and promotion of the simulation technology specialist role as being a crucial component for a successful medical simulation program.

Read these great responses to the article and share your own by emailing me at: Lance@HealthySimulation.com – I will add them to the growing list!

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Thomas Kemp – Vice President of Higher Learning Technology LLC

This is a GREAT observation and question I have often pondered over. I also felt the same disappointment that the author of the question you have focused on felt. “Why are graduate degree(s), and years of technology skills so easily dismissed by the medical community whom I am actively trying to assist?” After visiting several institutions, it was my observation that Universities and Colleges that had IT/AV sim-technical staff in place to support simulation seemingly had better running programs. Yet, AV/IT is often far down the list in job descriptions or requirements in simlabs. In a medical simulation laboratory where a one HF SimMan may require 3 operating systems with little to no standardization between mannequin models, let alone manufacturers, I find this almost baffling… add to the lab the need for online instructional technology and simcapture technology and I think you have a recipe for real problems in the making.

In wanting to be able to “talk the talk”, and be able to relate to my fellow Nursing, EMS faculty and students, I put myself through the Ohio 150 hour EMTB course. Without question it gave me more insight and allows me to play an active role in developing simulations technologies I am pursing. The jury is still out however, as to how “necessary” it was/is for me or others with similar instructional technology backgrounds; or just how or far a simulation tech should go in continued education. Most cases I have observed, nursing faculty was/is looking for teaching technical assistance. So, in reality the Simtech depending on the scope of the job duty and size of the organization could function more as an IT Network Engineer, an Audio Visual Specialist, Curriculum Developer or Instructional Designer, and certainly the need for a medical background is obvious.

If I were to advise someone who wanted to get in the simulation field as a career I would tell them to get a degree as a RN/BSN with a minor in hospital informatics. But, I would suggest the recommendation is based on the perceived needs of a simulation technician and not necessarily the observed actual technical reality.

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This is just my perspective!

Holly Pugh – Director, Clinical Simulation Center

Lance and readers – I cannot agree more with your assessment of the need to hire qualified simulation technicians with a background in technology, not healthcare. I run a program that started in 2009 and was the “computer person” with an RN degree and certified in nursing informatics. I quickly realized that my skills in computer technology, while great for a nurse, were not going to allow me to grow my program the way I envisioned. I began discussions immediately about the need for a person with true computer knowledge (using the arguments you discussed in your original document) and was able to get an FTE for a full time simulation tech. He has been working for me for a year and a half now and the program is booming. He has the skill and expertise to manage the equipment to maximize the lifespan of the manikins, as well as to perform the AV and networking functions that used to make me run screaming from the lab. Thanks for continuing to communicate on this important aspect of running a simulation center.

Jessie Johnson – Curriculum Development, Clinical Instructor, Lecturer Nicola Valley Institute of Technology

For me personally, I think that has been the kind of slanted thinking we are programmed to do. At least I thought so. I figured you had to be well versed in health care to teach healthcare. I can honestly say that I never thought about all the techy stuff involved in the delivery of a SIM service. I think you are right most of us are at that golden age however, we are not adverse to change given the proper information and tools.

Carl Rod – Clinical Simulation Lab at Rose State College


How well I agree with you. I started in my current position at 20 hours a week. I was hired due to my many years as a respiraqtory therapist (over 40, but I’ve stopped counting). But I have additional background in equipment maintenance, electronics, computer programming and miscellaneous “stuff”. I have been wroking to bring the lab to a higher level of usage and develop programming to challenge the students and develop “critical thinking skills”. Much of what I do is not direct respiratory care, but between what I know, what I’m learning and my “native” curiosity the lab is slowly developing.

This is still a “new” way of teaching and will take time to get folks on board. We also need to get more into specialized, student directed scenarios for other than nurses, paramedics and specialty doctors. There are a few of us dealing with RT, so we will have an impact sooner than later.
Great discussion.

Billie Paschal – Health Science Simulation Technician at North Central Texas College

I am this article! I was hired at NCTC as a contractor to put the newly purchased mankins together and make it all fit and work in the 1800 sq ft space that was given to the simulation lab. All I had were two degrees an MRS & MOM! Now two years later I have the title Health Sciences Simulation Technician, but am VERY limited in what I can do due to NO LETTERS! Part of the trouble of being in education is getting someone to listen unless you have more letters than them. I have no problem with this, and it has motived me to go back and finsih the degree I started 20 years ago. Just give someone a chance. P.S. I am a lot CHEAPER than an educator, nurse, or IT person. :)

Michael Lundin – Coordinator, Northern Clinical Simulation Centres at Northern Health Authority

Great article Lance, It speaks volumes to the experience and expertise you bring to the simulation world. As you know I entered Clinical Simulation just over two years ago with no Health Care Background. When they were looking to hire my position there was a great deal of discussion to hire someone with clinical or technical background. What I have experienced is that you certainly do not require your operator to have any healthcare certifications to support simulation sessions. I supported sessions for most of the first year and then we hired another technical background operator in which I trained and she too has been very successful in supporting clinical simulation. What we have also experienced is that every department or school brings their own expertise to the table which allows the operator the ability to do what they do best “set up and run the simulator”. This in turn allows the educator to do what they do best “guide sessions, observe sessions, and facilitate quality debriefing”. We have become part of the educators “team” and work hand in hand with all disciplines and departments of healthcare to deliver high quality simulation based education.

Lisa Schwaberow – Simulation Specialist at Palmetto Health

This is a great article and I passed it on. I am an IT/Computer, Graphic Artist, Photographer, and Web Designer. I was hired for these skills, yet because I am not clinical the other Sim Specs are not about making my life easy! They resent the fact that I need to keep learning the clinical side and I ask a lot of questions. They are all paramedics, emt or Firefighters, and it has caused problems. Maybe this is normal in other tech centers? I have done everything I know how to over come this issue, studying, and learning, but the minds are made up. I come in with a smile, do the best I can do, and realize that these people will never be personal friends. I LOVE my job at the Simulation Center and I love what I do and how it makes a the world a bit better place. That is why I smile and that is why I come to work everyday. This is the most amazing field I have ever worked in!

Faith Phillips –

Lance, I am an RN, and have worked in Simulation Education for several years. I have to agree whole-heartedly with you! As I have worked with colleagues from various programs, I have been rather shocked at the lack of IT support. I was spoiled in this regard with my previous location having a great Operations Manager and Sim Tech team – they could fix ANYTHING! Thankfully, they taught along the way so that I have a much stronger IT background now. There needs to be a balance for the program to run smoothly.

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