Skip to content

7 Habits of Highly Effective Sim Experts

Make simulation your bridge between classroom and real-life clinical performance.

The benefits to using simulation are manifold. Whether it’s training in a simulated emergency room, intensive care unit (ICU), or birthing unit simulations impart incredible knowledge and experience without putting patients or healthcare workers at risk. Experiential learning is what every healthcare professional needs, but often what so few have access to.

For institutions that see the benefits of implementing simulation training, here are seven secrets to launching an effective program:


1. Begin with the end in mind

Simulation may involve some fairly sophisticated equipment, but there’s no need to overcomplicate the process when it comes to developing a simulation training program. Well-defined learning objectives at the outset will avoid confusion and rework later on. More importantly, they will help manage expectations and resource commitments.1

Your model may be a great piece of work, but if you missed the target on expectations, you will probably not see the fruits of your labor implemented.

Aust, S., Ensuring a Successful Simulation Modeling Project, Quality Digest

2. Stay true to your learning objectives

If your goal is to have participants master basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), for example, there’s no need to incorporate a complex simulation scenario that deals with equipment failure or working at a chaotic fire scene. To stay focused, benchmark all decisions against your stated learning objectives. “Will this feature support or detract from what we’re trying to achieve?”

3. Share how learning should be applied on the job

Instructors need to communicate exactly what participants are expected to take from the simulation and apply at the patient’s bedside. This will help boost sense of purpose, commitment to learning and retention of information.

If students are expected to complete a cardiac assessment, explain what that means. Is it expected they listen to heart sounds in all fields, attach the patient to a monitor and interpret their electrocardiogram rhythm, and/or obtain a history of all related illness and medications? Expectations among instructors may vary, so being specific will clarify discrepancies.2

4. Leverage the power of short-term gains

Simulation experts recognize that making the case for simulation means demonstrating return on investment (ROI) — the faster, the better. Typically, they turn to the Kirkpatrick model to demonstrate how simulation training is worth the investment: 3

Effectively communicating short-term gains fuels engagement, enthusiasm and morale among key stakeholders. It also illustrates the link between employee engagement and ROI, showing in practical terms how simulation can deliver immediate value.

5. Think faculty development

Unlike the traditional classroom setting where instruction is teacher-centered, instruction using simulation is student-centered, with the teacher playing the role of facilitator in the student’s learning process.4 It’s a different way of learning, requiring a different type of teaching. This means that faculty development is a critical piece of every effective simulation program.

6. Create a simulation that is geared for self-reflection

To design a successful debriefing session, tailor it to the learning objectives established earlier. If you’ve defined those objectives well — around mastery of a particular technical skill or aspect of team behavior, for example — your debriefing session will allow you to gauge how closely participants’ performance aligned with the objectives, and what actions must be taken to bridge any observed gaps.

7. Identify the what and how of performance management

Metric-based simulation ensures that your training sessions are more than just simulated clinical “experiences” because progress is able to be objectively measured. It’s vital to identify what you will measure and how you will measure it.

Training should concentrate on what should be done and the order in which it should be done, but it should also target performance errors for at least reduction, preferably elimination.5


Applying best practices to your simulation practice

Simulation is a sizeable investment of time, money and resources, but what your learners can gain is invaluable. By following the best practices of the sim experts who’ve paved the way, you’ll be on your way to creating a simulation program that will pay dividends for years to come.


1. Aust, S., Ensuring a Successful Simulation Modeling Project, Quality Digest, nov00/html/simulation.html
2. NetCE, Teaching Healthcare Professionals Using Simulation, (2015), php?courseid=1180
3. Kirkpatrick, J. and Kirkpatrick, W., An introduction to the new work Kirkpatrick model. (2015) The One and Only Kirkpatrick,
4. Jeffries, P., A Framework for Designing, Implementing and Evaluating: Simulations Used as Teaching Strategies in Nursing, Nursing Education Perspectives, March / April Vol. 26 No. 2
5. Gallagher, A., Metric-based simulation training to proficiency in medical education: What it is and how to do it, (2012), 81(3): p 107–113