New Experiences: Entry Into New Simulation Environments

12/03/2015
Blog post by volunteer Arielle Glenn


We will govern through this blog by analyzing the experiences I’ve had in first being introduced into sim as a Field Service Engineer for Laerdal. Then we can identify learning outcomes through working as an IT Specialist at White Memorial, taking on new roles as a Simulation Technician at Cedars Sinai, and now diving into a very busy atmosphere as a Simulation Specialist at UCLA.

In my experience as a working human I have been many things. I’ve been a receptionist, retail worker, customer service associate, server, bartender, bilingual office assistant at a junior high school, translator for traveling administrators, volleyball (softball and soccer) coach Jr. High and Frosh/ JV teams, office/marketting manager, professional organizer, YMCA after-school program manager, operations manager, chiropractic assistant, transportation manager, student, FSE, website developer, and Simulation Specialist. It’s safe to say I’ve worn many hats. There is not one experience from any of these positions that isn’t accounted for in the practice I have needed to be the best version of myself in my current workplace. In combination with a self-reflective attitude, my work experience has given me the greatest advantage of all – adaptation. I feel any career in simulation is ALL about adaptation. The learners live by it, the educators encourage it and even the administrators value it.

Being a Field Service Engineer was one of the most challenging, unexpected and marvelous adventures Iwas privileged to experience. As an FSE, I never knew what kind of technical situation I was going to walk into. I have performed preventative maintenance in dungeons,  four-foot closets, and standing on my tippy-toes in a hallway full of first year med students doing orientation absolutely mortified at the site of me pulling a foam stomach from a robotic human patient. Adaptability had to be my forte for if it had not been, I would have had to take the first flight home on my first trip out. Being an FSE was also incredibly lonely at times. One has to travel alone, work alone (for the most part), hotel alone and find something to keep oneself occupied…alone. I look back to school and I think - none of that information really applied to my job. My job was to be teachable and learn the protocol for maintenance, repair and installation, be adaptable with customers and locations and do my job well – beyond well. My employer wanted a technical background, but I think that was to emphasis the ability to understand technical aspects of the job – not to identify the quality or capability of how one could perform the job. No, that experience would have to come from job history. Employers may ask for their potential hires to have a degree but in my experience, when it comes to a performance and customer service oriented position (as the FSE position calls for) it’s the professional background they are looking at more closely. I didn’t learn anything about IT, robotics, or troubleshooting until I worked for Laerdal. Being an FSE taught me all of that. Did I need a Bachelors in Electronic Engineering? No way. I needed people experience. I needed to be able to strive high for excellent performance outcomes. I needed to have felt the pain of someone in urgent need of a working training vessel. I needed to have been exposed to someone HUNGRY. So my serving experience really paid off here (insert wild laughter).

Being a Simulation Technician/Specialist was a’ hole ‘nother game. I feel so fortunate to have had the experience with Laerdal as it would carry me through to my next adventure at White Memorial Medical Center. I was appointed the title IT Simulation Specialist. My job was to take an empty center, fill it – wire it – finish the design process for the electronic/IT integration and accompany my coordinator to get the ball rolling with simulation. I flash back to the learning curve I subjected myself to when I became a manager of 100 children at an afterschool program catered by the YMCA. There is nothing more challenging than the trials and tribulations of managing children. There is also nothing more rewarding that getting it right and making a difference. Similarly, my experience integrating the IT/electronic aspects of sim into a brand new simulation center were equally challenging and rewarding. Again, I didn’t need to carry a diploma into my interview. I needed to prove that my time working at over 100 simulation centers across the nation, walking into various unknown networking situations and having no other option but to make the systems work, was more valuable than any other experience on my books. Having the will to keep trying until SimMom finally connected in the center was attributed to the countless times I performed a SOM upgrade to a SimMan3G and had to troubleshoot why I couldn’t get network connection no matter what I did right. Putting together all of the working parts for an insitu simulation couldn’t have happened unless I had visited the numerous Kaiser simulation sites where they had these fun little transportation carts that simply had every gadget necessary to connect any working element of SimJr, SimBaby and SimNewB. I was able to track down the manufacturer and get a few set up at WMMC. Learning the difference between DC and AC power sources at ITT Tech really made no difference here – it was all about Laerdal. Once systems were up, it was a challenge accumulating willing departments to participate in sim. Now I’m the ‘let’s make it happen over night’ type and waiting for staff to be just as excited as I was about simulation was just not my bag. I really struggled with trials of introducing simulation to staff/faculty who were totally content with the way they worked. I reflect on what it was like teaching a sixteen year old how to improve her left side approach to the volleyball net – when she was a right side – always had been “ALWAYS WILL BE”. Explaining simulation to a sixty year old nurse was cake compared to that – but nonetheless challenging. I simply had to appreciate that she wasn’t going to curse in my face and talk about me to all her friends after the session ended (often occurring while coaching teenage girls). Patience has never been my virtue and I unfortunately have let that get the best of me on many occasions. I took a valuable lesson from my experience at WMMC – give it a little more time and you will see the difference.

My last position at Cedars Sinai was independent of any experience I had ever enjoyed. Working in acenter with vast funding and a ‘sky’s the limit’ approach when it came to innovation and ideas was such fun. I was really able to spread my wings and apply a lot of my experience in life and the workplace to make a difference. As many “young” centers struggle with, systems aren’t always perfect. Having had professional organizing experience really paid off as I was given the opportunity to improve the structure of storage, inventory and organization of all simulation related items. I also never knew I was an artist until my manager implored me on a mission to create moulage. After rigorously studying YouTube, I was able to copycat many works of art found online and apply them to really fun simulations. I would like to think that I paved a bit of the way this simulation center would take realism to the next level. One important aspect of any professional position is how well you work with others. Understanding people is so crucial to the health of the team – having worn so many hats in the workplace and having been exposed to so many different personalities aloud for me to understand the needs of the center when it came to teamwork. Where my last position was very focused around my experience with Laerdal, this position was moreso focused on my ability to multitask and learn new things quickly. Housing every Gaumard simulator known to man, Cedars Sinai hosted a completely new environment I hadn’t been exposed to yet. I didn’t have a lot of AV experience apart from what I knew about SimView and I was lucky to work with staff members who were well versed in that way. I learned all about Bline, Crestron, Gaumard, revolabs, VMS and many other fun electronic systems integrated into the simulation environment. This environment reminded me a lot about school. When I walked into ITT Tech I had no idea what I wanted to do. My intake manager asked me a few questions and then said, “Computer Electronic Engineering would be great for you here is your paperwork sign this ok bye bye” – all one sentence like that too. I had no idea what to expect or how to learn it but I dove in nonetheless. When I took the position at Cedars, I had no idea what to do. I had never ran simulation or been a sim controller much less even know how to pronounce half of the medications in the top drawer of a crash cart. I felt very small. I had to remind myself that when I was five years old, my mom put me in a Spanish emersion elementary school and I started learning a second language. Within two years I was able to carry on a conversation with any Spanish speaker that came my way. If I had learned a second language and was proficient by the age of seven, I could learn the list of “pressors” used in various simulations. This position really called on my past as a tool for learning.

As if I hadn’t found the stars, I wanted to reach higher – to the moon. I made the decision to pursue a position at UCLA – the mothership. With 20 years of simulation under their belt, a strong team oriented structure and an awesome management team, UCLA has really been the greatest gift I have acquired during the holiday season. I can truly say that my experience has never been more valuable in my life than now. I can recount a tidbit of every adventure I have taken and apply it to some element of my job here. History and experience are important. If we take for granted even one moment, we may not be able to bring it to the front of our minds when we need to recall it for the purpose it may serve.