June 25, 2024By Erin Carn Bennett

How to Manage Healthcare Simulation Program Workloads

As a healthcare simulation program expands, there can be an increased number of requests for clinical simulation activities. While this can be an incredibly exciting time for a clinical simulation program, particularly new and developing ones, there can also be a lot of stress on faculty, administrative and operational staff. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, RN, MSN, will explore how to manage the ever-increasing workload of a healthcare simulation program which can vary greatly at times, dependent on seasonal flows and many other factors and can be a challenge for many.

Consider Where Enquiries for Healthcare Simulation Arrive From

As enquiries arrive into email inboxes from website based enquiry forms or elsewhere this can be a really exciting time for a clinical simulation program. However, this can also be daunting or cause overwhelm. One of the first questions to consider for any clinical simulation enquiry be that online or in face to face communication is whether or not this enquiry is suitable to be addressed by healthcare simulation based education.

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As feedback is heard and word gets around about clinical simulation program experiences from participants in an organization, an increase in enquiries may start to occur. Although wonderful, at times clinical simulation is not the ideal education modality to be used and this is not always apparent at the time of initial enquiry. There is merit to have a clinical simulation framework at times like these and these enquiries will often test the healthcare simulation programs framework and useability. Once the enquiry seems to be well suited to a clinical simulation based education modality and fits within the programs framework and also there is capacity within the current team to undertake the clinical simulation then progress towards delivery is able to occur.

As healthcare simulation also gains traction as a quality and safety initiative as well as useful to identify latent safety threats, more enquiries from upper organizational management may come forward. However, great caution must be exercised in regards to adverse patient outcomes and application of healthcare simulation to “fix” this issue. Psychological safety of participants in clinical simulation must be constantly advocated for and also at the forefront of everything that healthcare simulationists undertake. At times this may mean saying no to clinical simulation requests too soon after an adverse event as this may retraumatise staff that were involved in the case. Incredibly careful consideration of psychological safety for staff must be adhered to.

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Consider how work arrives through both the official and unofficial channels. Healthcare simulation work enquiries may arrive through a website, enquiry form, email or a face to face encounter. Take time to create systems to manage this process. Systems to manage this process include factors required to be able to accept the request and also how this information is shared with the broader healthcare simulation team.

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Shared Team Calendars are a Great Visual Display of Workload

A team shared calendar which has easy access for all team members is essential. A team calendar could be either online or a physical piece of paper. However, this visual display will demonstrate any overlaps in work which has been requested and become a visual representation of how many staff members will be required to undertake a clinical simulation course. Also consider long term regular bookings versus ad hoc booking levels and how these are obtained.

Further to the above calendar consideration, the amount and type of staff allocated on days of clinical simulation courses should be considered. For example: if a large-scale healthcare simulation is scheduled ensure that enough multidisciplinary team members are scheduled to allow the course to go ahead. If there are days of the week that are more popular for scheduled training then load this day with more staff if able to enable concurrent clinical simulation sessions to be able to take place at the same time.

Ensure that adequate time is allocated in the shared team calendar for both preparation and also clean up time for any clinical simulation based education. There is often an underestimation of allocated time in particular for preparation for a clinical simulation course. This can place a lot of strain on clinical simulation teams and can be where critical course equipment and elements are missed. Equally important is the allowance of time to tidy up, place equipment back and movement between multiple sessions. Also ensure that time is planned for staff to take their breaks.

Make Allowances for Report Writing after Clinical Simulation Course Delivery

Another allocation of time that is required is an end of clinical simulation course report writing. An end of healthcare simulation course report can be incredibly useful not only for clinical simulation staff, but also for leadership within the area that education was provided for and also higher organizational leadership as well. A post clinical simulation course report should be shared with the above individuals and clinical simulation participants identity should always be explicitly ensured and also protected within these reports. Data to include within departmental clinical simulation post course reports include: number of clinical simulation participants by profession, any deidentified participant feedback, any latent safety threats that have been identified and also further education requirements identified and recommendations.

A monthly team productivity report can also be an incredibly useful tool in the management of a healthcare simulation program’s workload. Team members should be encouraged to collate data in one central point either online or on a physical piece of paper. This data captured can be used to create a monthly productivity report for the clinical simulation program. A monthly productivity report can capture the amount and type of clinical simulation based activity delivered and to what types of participants. Latent safety threats and other ongoing projects can also be displayed within this report and this can be shared with higher management and even with the public within a clinical simulation lab environment.

This article has discussed considerations of how to manage a healthcare simulation program’s workload. Requests for clinical simulation based education can come through a number of different channels. With careful consideration and constant innovation, streamlining of this process can ensure that opportunities can be made the most to deliver as much clinical simulation as feasible and to the highest standard.

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