1. Holtschneider, Mary E. MPA, BSN, RN-BC, CPLP

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In my encounters with hospital workplace simulation professionals throughout the country, I have observed several common themes regarding how these professionals use simulation modalities in their educational practice. Many individuals were assigned simulation as a collateral duty, and had to figure out how to work the high-fidelity manikin that someone else had purchased and stored in the closet. Some have prevailed in this arena, whereas others have not.


Another group embodies those who saw simulation techniques and became interested in how these high-fidelity modalities could transform the learning experience, so they actively applied for simulation-related jobs. Although they probably had no formal training in how to effectively use simulation, they learned through attending conferences and networking with the early adopters who learned things the hard way.


There is now an emerging group, on whom I will focus this column, who are working as traditional nursing professional development (NPD) specialists performing tasks such as orientation, life support, clinical unit coverage for competency assessment and documentation, and product rollouts/institutional initiatives. This emerging group, although not actively assigned the duties of a simulation specialist, are well positioned to help move simulation forward in the workplace by partnering with those who directly work in simulation.


Are you looking at incorporating simulation modalities into your NPD practice but are not actively assigned simulation as an official duty? There are many ways to accomplish this goal.


First of all, seek out and collaborate with the individuals who are actually assigned to the simulation program by actively partnering with them to plan and develop an educational offering. Their expertise includes how to design simulation scenarios and not just to "run the simulator." You also know your constituents, whether long-term care nurses, critical care nurses, or nurses in any other nursing specialty. As the NPD specialist, you bring subject matter expertise, educational design expertise, and expertise in working well with others on the various units in the hospital.


Second, attend a regional or national simulation conference to learn more about this educational specialty. These conferences offer continuing education for all levels of learners, so beginners are welcomed. Common topics offered include effective debriefing, engaging learners as they suspend disbelief, using standardized patients (trained medical actors), and incorporating high- and low-fidelity simulation modalities into competency assessment. As the simulation field continues to grow, conferences are offering education on the nuts and bolts of simulation and how to effectively employ it in the hospital setting. Some of the simulation companies also offer educational courses, which can be very helpful. There also are online and in-person courses available through universities.


Third, commit to being a true simulation partner by recognizing the impact that simulation can have on learner outcomes and using it when appropriate. Just as NPD specialists cannot work in a silo and do everything alone, simulation specialists must collaborate with others to achieve viable outcomes.


By becoming a true simulation partner and using simulation appropriately in the hospital environment, the NPD specialist can help transform the way we are currently providing workplace education. Do you have a story on how you have used simulation as an NPD specialist to transform your practice? Email me at


Suggested Readings


Leigh G. (2011). The simulation revolution: What are the implications for nurses in staff development? Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 27 (2), 54-57.


Merchant D. C. (2012). Does high-fidelity simulation improve clinical outcomes? Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 28 (1), E1-E8.