Student Employees: A Mutually Beneficial Relation

05/26/2016

Blog post by SimGHOSTS board member Mark Johanneck

Student Employees: A Mutually Beneficial Relation

I think one near universal truth for any busy simulation program is that we all wish we had more staff. There just never seems to be enough hours in a day to get everything accomplished. The inbox and to-do list seem bottomless. Unfortunately in these times of budget cuts and belt tightening, adding full-time staff is not always feasible. Staff salary and benefits are likely any simulation program’s largest annual expense.

One strategy that our simulation program has used with great success is the hiring of pre-health and nursing undergraduate students as part-time employees. Instead of working at the student union, campus gym or any of the other student help job throughout school, we hire student workers to work in our simulation lab. While a part-time student may not be able to fill the same role as a full-time staff, they are able to accomplish an amazing amount of work at a fraction of the cost.

Our student employees generally work 10-15 hours per week, and their salaries are inexpensive compared to our full-time staff as they do not receive any of the traditional benefits like vacation time or health insurance. This turns into a cost savings benefit for our program. It also provides our program with hard-working, passionate students who are driven to succeed in the healthcare industry, thus highly motivated. Our program never ceases to be amazed by the exceptional work the students provide at a great value.

Before you think we are simply taking advantage of the students’ hard work at a discounted hourly rate, our students actually receive a great deal in return, other than just a paycheck. The students we purposefully hire have plans for a future career in healthcare. While working for our program, these students gain a tremendous amount of clinical knowledge through watching, learning, and actively participating in all aspects of clinical simulation activities. This work also helps them to familiarize themselves with various specialties in the hospital and get a head start on which aspects of patient care they may have an interest in. As is typical, many specialties work closely with our program on a regular basis, including Emergency Medicine, Surgery, and Internal Medicine to name a few. Our simulationists within these departments and our full-time staff both enjoy mentoring these bright individuals and encouraging them to take away as much as they can and find value even in the mundane tasks. For example, oftentimes students are asked to complete a simulation set up, organize equipment or stock code carts, which is not the most stimulating job. However, we help them see the value in becoming familiarized with the needs of different levels of care, the many pieces of medical equipment, and how that those items are vital for certain situations.

It brings us great joy to hear the outstanding feedback from former students who are now medical students and practicing nurses, as well as current students in nursing school. These students have told us that the experience and knowledge they have gained working in our simulation lab has been invaluable. They feel like they have a head start over their classmates because they are already very familiar with medical equipment, communication techniques, basic life support algorithms, team dynamics, crew resource management and countless other things they have had the opportunity to be exposed to and learn while working in our simulation lab. While the paycheck is great, the real value our students gain from working here is that it serves as an incredible educational opportunity. For example, a former student who is now a practicing nurse has even come back after being on the job for six months and told us that not only did working for us help her while she was in school, she also felt much more confident and capable in her first few months on the job and she credits much of that to her time working in our simulation lab.

While a part-time student worker may not fill the same role and duties as a full-time employee, they do provide our program with an incredible resource. The student employees are able to provide their services at a fraction of the cost, which benefits our program’s financial bottom line. It also provides our program with highly motivated, passionate employees who are eager to learn. The students in return find tremendous value in both collecting a paycheck and receiving a very unique educational opportunity that will give them an exceptional advantage in both their formal education as well as their future career. Our student employees have become a vital part of our team and we would struggle to maintain our current pace without their help. This is the definition of a win-win situation.