A Future for Simulation Professionals


By SimGHOSTS Global Board member Matt Charnetski


As we traverse through IMSH, I find myself reflecting on many great sessions and professional connections, new and old, that always rejuvenate my drive to head back to my center and push forward.


A common theme in my impressions is the paramount identity crisis at the core of almost every other conversation or purist that begs the question: What are simulation professionals? Technicians? Specialists?  Practitioners? Administrators? Educators?  And what, pray tell, what is a Simulationist...


The answer is probably a resounding, but confounding, “Yes!”


We are a field of professionals who consistently specializes in being generalists.  At any given moment and among so many other things, we are expected to exhibit knowledge of medicine, technology, educational modalities, assessment, and business practices. Historically, we have come from medical and technical occupations.  Or, more often than not, we arguably happened to be in the right place at the right time and were tasked with dragging the still-in-the-box simulation equipment out that others were avoiding since purchased months or even years ago. 


We strive for recognition of our field of practice and the high degree of expertise that we provide as we weave ideas from various specializations into the broader fabric of our learners’’ understanding. The big picture we coordinate and the connections we link is what creates enormous value in any simulation program that can make all the difference in every branch of healthcare. In the greater scheme of things, we are a burgeoning profession, but we are a critical profession essential for the successful delivery of high quality, efficient, and effective educational content.  For healthcare.  For providers.  For programs.  For patients. Now is the time that we start acting like it by creating and furthering the understanding and validity of our multidisciplinary profession. We do this each time you invest in your future. 


Formal education.  The President of SSH gave a rallying cry for formal education in simulation and it’s associated techniques and technologies. I am a huge proponent of this call for action, but I also believe this is not an exclusive way to increase our professional identity.  With associates degrees, bachelors, and masters degrees (shout out to my Alma Mater Drexel University Masters of Science in Medical and Healthcare Simulation; yes I am biased), we see a substantial increase in formal simulation education programs. These programs create broad foundations in the areas that we are expected to be knowledgeable while preparing you with methods for communicating that collection of knowledge.  Think of your CV?  Do you need eight bullet points to show your equivalent work experience?  Or, do you need one bullet point that says it all with your education?  For those of you in higher education, your program and peers have been organized in a way that uses academic degrees to identify you and your ideas professionally with your discipline. Furthering your views, status, and responsibility within that system is greatly enhanced with a formal education under your belt. Having said that, the value brought with formal education should not distract or detach the other pursuits we need to do to establish our professional identity. Mainly, I do not want to take anything away from the role experience plays in our field.  We truly stand on the shoulders of giants.  


Professional Societies.  Professional societies provide educational opportunities, certifications, and networks we can lean on to avoid isolating silos that doom us to ineffectively duplicating methods already previously created or optimized by others. This is our opportunity press forward by finding people that are doing what we do or what we want to do.  Join up.  Show up.  Volunteer.  Contribute.  Clearly, you are here, so you have some interest in SimGHOSTS.  It is a great place to start.  I am writing this while sitting in a plenary session for the International Meeting for Simulation in Healthcare; the Society for Simulation in Healthcare is a wonderful and far reaching organization, but look beyond that.  Find groups that serve and attract your learner population.  Look into organizations that are parallel, but related.  For example, some of the research coming out of human factors and psychology have massive effects on how we simulate, how we teach, how we assess, and how we advance.  So, look around and empower yourself with a breadth of knowledge that can serve as the link between the hard-won scientific breakthroughs and the rest of the world.


Conferences.  Local, national, or international, conferences are a fantastic opportunity to meet people in your same shoes and to learn from them directly.  Go to sessions about things you do, things you want to do, and things that intimidate you. Learn from each other.  Collaborate.  Continue to create a professional network.  IMSH is right now. Later this summer, SimGHOSTS is in Memphis and SimOps is in Portland.  We’re seeing mini-SUNs and other regional conferences popping up all over the place.  Find your community.  Build your community.


Certifications. Get them.  Maintain them. With the Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator and Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist, SSH is building some great certification programs that are becoming recognized in the industry at large.  However, do not stop there.  Keep your mind open and consider what skills you need where you are.  Build those skills.  Much like formal education, certifications provide a great way to demonstrate your professional capability in an easily translatable way.  Are you an EMT, RN, DO, CCNA, or MCP?  This list goes on, but just like these more traditional designations, simulation certifications demonstrate sets of skills, knowledge, and standards that inform what you do.  They show your professional commitment, experience, and expertise in your respective fields.


Service.  Join industry committees, volunteer, and teach.  By doing so, you have the opportunity to help improve the quality of simulation around the world.  You also have the chance to establish your professional credibility within our field and your organization.  The more we serve and show our professional capacity, the more significant and secure our professional identify becomes.


In life, we are what we consistently do and a composite of all of our experiences until the present. Build on that! Enhance your strengths, shore up your gaps, move forward and build the professional you need to be.  We have come a long way, and this is the point to keep the momentum that continues to establish simulation professionals as the essential element of healthcare education that we are. Be curious.  Stay hungry. Follow your folly. Keep up the excellent work.

 I appreciate what each of you is doing, and I cannot wait to see what you come up with next.  I learn something each time I get a chance to interact with each of you.