Marty Kauchak and James Cypert talk about the importance of standardization in simulation technologies and the training of technicians.

SimGHOSTS lead hands-on simulation training event.

Mr. Cypert is the technical director for the School of Nursing at California Baptist University. Until February 2014 he was the president of SimGHOSTS, a non-profit organization. SimGHOSTS is dedicated to supporting the growing international population of professionals operating medical simulation technology and spaces through: hands-on training events, online resource sharing development, and greater community awareness engagements. He completed this interview with Group Editor Marty Kauchak on July 3, 2014.

MEdSim: We’re pleased to see you have remained active with SimGHOSTS and the community after recently resigning as organization president.

James Cypert: Thanks. I remain very passionate about the medical simulation profession and community. 

MEdSim: Your presentation at this August's HEATT 2014 conference is titled, "There is No Technology without the Technician". Briefly discuss your justification for that statement.

 JC: The title comes from the point of view technology requires individuals that are willing to put the time and effort in to become knowledgeable in its use and application. It is our view that with technology, no matter how simple a system or technology becomes, there will always be those who do not wish to take the time to understand its underlying complexities. When faced with the implementation of any technological solution, there comes with it, some very difficult challenges that need to be successfully mitigated in order to have the technology fully utilized and filling all of its intended purposes. Technicians and technologists can make technology work for the people it was intended to serve. Vendors will always highlight how simple every solution is. The reality is that the more simple it becomes to operate a technology, the more complicated it is to service, configure, install, update and complete other life cycle support needs. Without the technician, the end user will be fully exposed to those complications. SimGHOSTS further believes innovations in technology will continue as they have since most of us can remember. Platforms will get smaller, operate faster, and store more content. They will become more convenient and easier to operate. No matter how much we achieve there will always be a need for someone willing to understand how it operates, how to fix, maintain and upgrade it, and willing to teach others about it. The technician or technologist is a key component to full technology implementation.

MEdSim: As a follow on to your statement about vendors, provide your "help wanted list": offer suggestions to the medical simulation equipment manufacturers to help them increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their devices.

JC: Every year SimGHOSTS’ leadership moderates a “Meet Your Vendor” session for the top sponsoring exhibitors. The general consensus is to continue to innovate, but also consider standardizing among each other. Early in the days of the internet, and before it really started to take off, industry (manufacturers and suppliers) came together and began to standardize and even agreed to standards that would promote consistency as well as promote themselves. We believe industry would do well to continue finding new ways to make things operate easier, provide better support, and deliver products easier to maintain and upgrade.

MEdSim: What are some shortfalls in the medical simulator technician community's credentialing and certification processes?

JC: There is too much emphasis on background experience and who is, or who is not, the best qualified to be a “Sim Tech.” It is not all that complicated. Look at the systems the industry uses and then proceed from there. A technician should be trained and certified in the technologies they support. The problem is the temptation to continue in “silos”. The community would do well to avoid those mistakes and stop concentrating on previous job experiences and fully define the skill sets that are necessary for the job. If it requires a knowledge of human anatomy then train it and certify to that requirement. If the position requires understanding network protocols, then do the same!

MEdSim: Another follow up: how is SimGHOSTS acting as a proponent and making a difference in the way your professionals are credentialed and certified?

JC: We as an organization are advocating for the definition of the skill sets required to complete our tasks, and identifying other skill sets that may not be fully required but are invaluable. Once identified, we provide access to this knowledge in our online community and at our annual events. We connect technicians with other technicians around the world. We gather the collective knowledge and distribute it amongst our members.

MEdSim: Discuss your forecast for the supply and demand of medical simulator technicians in the US through the next five years.

JC: From our perspective we can see that Healthcare Simulation is still in the early-adopter phase. Most of the events we have participated in report that 40% of attendees surveyed “have never been to a simulation meeting previously” or are “new to the job”. At every simulation event people speak to the delegates as the innovators, pioneers, and cutting-edge, early adopters of healthcare education - and so it’s not hard to see why as an industry, we are only at the “tip of the iceberg” with regards to integration. Healthcare simulation will continue to rapidly expand into healthcare educational and training programs around the world.

Eventually, the medium-to-large sized learning programs that take simulation seriously will realize that they need a technician or multiple technicians who help to remove the burden of technology from the clinical educators. It is just not cost effective to pay two-to-three times the salary to a clinical educator with 1/10th the technical experience. Programs that succeed treat their spaces like small businesses with serious commitments to maximize logistical efficiency. There is just no way to continually operate the amount of technology involved in these simulation spaces without technical expertise to diagnose, repair, or replace multiple, high-level systems.

You mentioned the US but the demand for Sim Techs will continue to increase well into the future around the world. The role of simulation in healthcare education is expanding with no current decline expected. The benefits of simulation are well known. It is currently common practice for nursing programs, medical schools, and graduate medical education and even among practicing professionals within hospital systems. Many states are even increasing the utilization of simulation to serve as clinical experience in nursing programs. With the shift away from “watch one, do one, teach one”, training continues for the benefit of patient safety and the demand will only increase.

MEdSim: On a closely related topic, what are some positive trends and shortfalls you see in US medical simulator technicians' formal education programs.

JC: There really are too few formal education program for simulation technicians. The best you can do is hire an individual with technical experience who can communicate well and will never tire of learning on the job. Beyond that, connecting your Sim Tech to annual SimGHOSTS training and networking events is the best way to get up to speed and stay ahead of the game.

However, now that the organization has become an official 501c3 tax-exempt educational organization and has solidified itself as the “go-to” annual event, the SimGHOSTS board of directors is expanding the conversation to include official training programs that will enable individuals to train to a specific standard of skill sets. The demand is huge for this training. The new SimGHOSTS’ leadership sees the opportunity for the organization to provide it.

Another SimGHOSTS effort is providing the entire database of recorded sessions from previous organization meetings at very little cost. Numerous hours of technical training and presentation video content is available to subscribers at a nominal fee. The plan is to expand this database with even more recorded content from our two 2014 events, one which occurred in Australia this June, the other to convene in the US (August 5-8).