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Cultivating Skilled and Motivated SPs Through a Structured Onboarding Process and Creative Engagement Activities

By: Paula Rutledge, CHSE, University of Mississippi and Alaina Herrington, DNP, RN, CHSE-A, CNOR, University of Mississippi

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Simulation education is no different. Simulation scenarios with standardized or simulated patients (SPs) provide learners the opportunity to get involved and have a hands-on, customized learning experience with a live person. But for SP simulation activities to be effective and facilitate relevant learning, SPs must be well trained and invested in their position.

Developing an SP onboarding process involves several considerations. First, what are the responsibilities of the SP? Will SPs evaluate learners in addition to role portraying and giving feedback? How many staff members and how much time can you commit to the onboard training? How much money can your center invest toward training? Budgetary restraints can make the adequate training process challenging.

We have developed a three-session training process to efficiently and effectively train our onboarding SPs. Each session is approximately three hours. New SPs are expected to memorize the scripts of the training sessions before they participate.

After completing the three-step training process, new SPs are scheduled to work one of the cases encountered during their training. New SPs are observed and evaluated by a simulation center staff member the first time they work. The staff member will give them feedback based on the evaluation and answer questions. Dividing the numerous responsibilities of an SP into these three training sessions helps minimize fatigue and information overload.

The journey is not yet over for newly trained SPs. It’s imperative to keep them continually engaged in their work. There are many ways to accomplish this — plan to be creative. Here are some ways that we have promoted continual SP engagement.

Providing optimal learning experiences for learners is one of the primary objectives of simulation activities. We have been successful in accomplishing this by breaking down the massive onboarding training process into bite-size pieces and constantly exploring ways to make our SPs feels valued and remain motivated in their distinctive role. Well-trained and actively engaged SPs are vital to having a successful SP program.

View Example SP Recognition Award

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