Monthly Archives: December 2016

Part Two: How to Get Soul if Your lab doesn’t have it

Note: I spent nine years as a critical care manager coaching staff for peak performance during crisis situations, and I know a thing or two about psychomotor skills performance under pressure (which we’ll get to in a future blog). If your educational practice does not incorporate elements of sports psychology, you are missing the boat. We want our team to win and our players to love the sport.

Yesterday the blog entry here was titled “Does your Simulation Program have “Soul?” and it was a teaser. I just laid out  the problem but didn’t offer the solutions. In the education business this is called “creating the need to know”  – It’s like catching mice. When the mice are hungry enough, even the worst cheese is alluring and irresistible.

Um, maybe not the best metaphor. My professional colleagues are not laboratory specimens running a maze. The point being, I know I am not the best writer – let’s focus on the aromatic cheese (me) , not the mouse (you) per se. Words sometimes fail me but I still try to speak my truth.

And – it was a joke.

Floor Plan and square footage

So the first set of solutions to developing a heart and soul for your sim program/lab is in the physical layout. If you look back at yesterday’s blog I was pointing out things that could have been mitigated with better design and more space. Now, space is a problem when a sim lab and/or skills lab is retrofitted into a previously existing space. But – there does need to be adequate waiting area and closet space.

I’m told there is a specialized architectural firm that houses a specific team to design these “state-of-the-art” labs everybody is trying to have.

Think of the actual sim room, or even the actual skills lab, as if it were a ride at Disneyworld, or perhaps a room in an O.R. suite. There needs to be a place for the next batch to wait, and a room at the exit doors for the previous batch to exit. The room gets turned over for the next batch. The ideal is to have a de-briefing room right next to the actual sim room; but if you need quick turnover it’s actually better for each group to exit the area when their scenario is completed.

tip: If you are in a cold climate, expect that the students will wear a winter jacket, they will need to hang it up, along with boots and book backpacks.

If the lab is so tightly scheduled that groups of students need to wait outside and then flood  in as soon as the class time begins, you need to think about the waiting area. tip: Give them chairs. Designate a staging area nearby. You may think this is obvious, but it’s not. given a choice between students sitting on the floor versus a cluttered hallway, I’d be happy with clutter.

“A well organized desk is a sign of a cluttered mind”

I have now seen a number of labs where they simply didn’t design enough closet and storage space, or it’s not efficiently done. You can’t wait to set up a lab event by beginning at the start of class time.

The logistical chain goes like this:

The students arrive > the equipment is there and the disposables are too > the class happens > the process is repeated for the next “performance” with a new audience. Maybe the same equipment and disposables, maybe a different performance altogether.  Dos it sound too basic? may be for you it will, but maybe a new faculty never really thought about it before.

Failing to execute logistics is like waiting until the code starts before you stock the crash cart. From the beginning, effective lab management needs to build in the prep time and a system. tip: think of the supply logistics the way an O.R. nurse would. In late afternoon, You look at the cases for the following day, and pull the equipment needed, placing it on a rolling exchange cart. tip: don’t overbuild shelving for storage. exchange carts give you a more flexible system.

Eye Candy from Johns Hopkins

This YouTube was going around a week or two ago, and it showed JHU doing the “#mannequinchallenge  I would point out several things. First, the JHU Dean has enough of a sense of humor to make a cameo appearance at 1:42. Next, each little tableau is posing for a different activity (you would never have all of these things happening simultaneously even if they were on drugs, which they are obviously not). Thirdly, I suspect they have “soul” down there…..  to me, the video implied a sense of giddy fun. The best way to learn.

tip: every time you can think of a way to have the students “own” the lab, implement it. If a student shows up early before the first class of the day – let them in, and engage them in assisting you setting things up.  You are modeling planning skills when you let them in on the secret. tip: At the end of a session? always end the content delivery five minutes early so the students clean it up, not you. Your energy should be directed toward preparing for the next class, not cleaning up after the previous one. You as lab manager are need to focus on finding ways to create, not simply do the laundry or clean up after the event. Having said that, there does need to be a system to put stuff away so it will be in ready condition when it is next retrieved. tip: at the end of each session, thank everyone who helped do the behind-the-scenes with you. Or even during the session you can ask them to stand and get a round of applause. (Yes, groups are often inhibited from doing any “spirit” things – but time to break that expectation and create a new one. Being willing to create positive motivation in this way is a behavior that will carry  over into clinical practice and become just as critical there as sterile technique).

I think this is enough for today. If you have tips to add please make a comment.

Tomorrow is part three

Tomorrow I will write more about ways to get “soul” and create a love of sim and a love of lab. If your students seem to dread a psychomotor session, never fear! the secrets will be revealed! Be sure to subscribe to this blog to make sure you don’t miss anything. Also, if you have faculty who don’t get it in terms of how to use lab to revolutionize attitudes, feel free to forward this to them….why not!?!??!?!!







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Does your Simulation Program have “Soul?”

Because I use Sim in Nepal and have been involved in scenario-based education, I have interviewed for about five nursing faculty jobs here in USA where they are looking for a person to run their Sim Lab. I visited a School of Nursing not too long ago where the corridors were sterile. You know the kind of place I mean – maybe you work at one. When I walk around such a place I can hear my own footsteps. Every door is the same and every person is dressed like a bank executive.

They showed me their learning lab. Outside, thirty students waited in a corridor – sitting on the floor because nobody thought to set chairs out there. Two huge bulletin boards – with nothing on them. A monotonous color scheme, nothing on the walls, everything very neat. (had it ever been used?)

I do not recall the source of this meme. It can be seen in many skills labs. Which one do you prefer?17390843_1499830790048183_2928056301606602728_o

Nursing students were doing scenarios with Sim Man, and I overheard one faculty member needing to stop the scenario to instruct the student on female catheterization technique. They were using Sim as a means of individual evaluation, no audience other than the faculty. Punitive overtones if you ask me. There was no nearby practice/pre-test prep area that I could discern.

Two international graduate students who looked like they were Somali, sat at a table reading. They were there to work with the undergraduates, but – they didn’t seem to be interacting at all.

Are we having fun yet?

It reminded me of this:


When this dynamic is ingrained into a corporate culture, it is difficult to overcome


Yes folks, the literature of Scenario-based education is replete with examples of joyous learning described as “transformative.” But – your school can invest in all the manikins, build a multi-million-dollar Skill and Sim suite, and – still not “get it.”

I’ll admit, during the tour I started to compose a list of strategies that might help them grow. The faculty had a comfort zone – it was just not in the right place.

I guess my question is, “what are we teaching the students when the environment is like this?”

We’re teaching them they don’t really matter. They are cogs in a corporate machine and we are teaching them to say “Do you want fries with that?” When we adopt the micro-managing of interpersonal behavior, we now control how they interact. Because of closed circuit cameras and two-way mirrors we now have the capability to document whether the person is smiling enough.

Consistency is a goal, but – does that also mean “conformity?”

Got Soul?

A simulation/scenario-based education program needs to have a certain joie de vivre in order to capture the student’s imagination and engage their passion. Help them love nursing not dread it. That’s what I call “soul.”

Here is the point where we all go look it up and present the dictionary definition. Soul is not strictly a religious term. For a bit of edge I always seek definitions at Urban Dictionary.


having an outstanding aura, with a brilliant and loving attitude.
Being exceptionally well at a task.
Completeing a task with an indellible inquisitive nature or spiritual quality.
I love this job I do it well cause I got soul.


Here’s another one:


Technically: a religious concept of an immortal individual conciousness, the mind superimposed on an invisible and supposedly indestructible and universal substance called “spirit.”
Colloquially: authenticity, style, or passion. Used almost exclusively in expressions similar to “he’s got soul,” often used to refer to individual (e.g. improvisational) expression in music styles such as jazz.
Also, a harmonically simple, often syncopated, style of music made by black people such as James Brown, usually played by small groups, though occasionally involving horn sections, related to funk and rock and always having vocals. This music is claimed to embody the above characteristic.
Everything they did, seemed designed to remove the authenticity, style and passion.
They didn’t offer me the job.
Not sure I wanted it, after all. 
Next blog entry? Part Two is live as of Monday Dec 5th. The title?  How to Get Soul if Your lab doesn’t have it.  Here is the link:

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