Who Is Keeping Track of Our Formally Educated Simulationists?

By: Janet Willhaus

This is the final part in the four-part series on the Evaluation of Educators Who Teach Simulation Pedagogy. Read part one, part two, and part three of the series.

Many of us learned simulation by doing, but the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) recommends nurse educators teaching with simulation obtain formal training in the pedagogy (Alexander et al., 2015). While simulation work can still be learned on the job, an emerging group of formal simulation education programs offers a way to learn best practices and researched methods from established simulationists. These programs, usually graduate certificates or master’s programs in simulation pedagogy, provide a simulation curriculum taught by experienced simulationists in a comprehensive package previously only available through a mix of independent conferences, workshops, and journal readings.

shutterstock_421241848-300x224I coordinate the Boise State Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Simulation, a nine-credit online interprofessional program that takes 11 months to complete. Enrolled students progress through three courses that culminate in a three-day on-campus intensive workshop in June. The initial course sets the stage for using simulation research findings and best practices in the pedagogy. The second course covers operations and behind-the-scenes management of simulation programs. The final course incorporates practical application of simulation facilitator knowledge and skills.

During the coursework, participants are evaluated using rubrics. Learners enter the program with varying levels of simulation experience and are evaluated on individual growth. Weekly discussion boards allow the cohort to discuss and collaborate on a wide variety of topics. In keeping with a graduate program, discussion board posts follow a scholarly format utilizing citations to support assertions. Most assignments are readily applicable to the simulation setting for those who are already working in the field. Learners also have opportunities to view each other’s work and provide peer reviews for some assignments. Students maintain an electronic portfolio of their own work for use at a current or future simulation position.

How can formal education programs like ours monitor graduate success, and how can outcomes be tracked beyond program completion? One measure is to identify graduates who have met some personal objective, such as certification in either simulation education or operations (CHSE, CHSE-A, or CHSOS). Other measures may come as information from where the graduate simulationist works. Outcomes may include grant awards, program growth, and accreditation status. Graduates may report promotions or changes in work assignments as a result of program completion. Presentations at conferences or publications by graduates are also counted as successes.

Although graduate certificates and master’s programs may not currently have a regulatory requirement to track simulation outcomes, students considering enrollment often ask for objective measures or stories of alumni success. Prospective students want to know how many graduates are now certified or whether they are able to find simulation jobs after program completion. As a result, my program has made it a practice to poll our simulation certificate graduates annually to inquire about their progress and scholarship.



Alexander, M., Durham, C., Hooper, J. I., Jeffries, P. R., Goldman, N., Kardong-Edgren, S., …Tillman, C. (2015). NCSBN simulation guidelines for prelicensure nursing programs. Journal of Nursing Education, 6 (3), 39-42.

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