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Simulation: How Do We Best Prepare and Train Our Educators? Where Do We Begin?

By: Beth Hallmark, PhD, RN, MSN, CHSE-A, ANEF; Sabrina Beroz, DNP, RN, CHSE-A, FAAN; and Penni Watts, PhD, RN, CHSE-A

This past year, as the  pandemic swept the world creating challenges for educators and learners, simulation has been brought to the forefront of nursing education. This leads us to ask: How do we best prepare and train our faculty/simulation educators? Where do we begin?

It certainly is a hot topic, as demonstrated by the number of questions and comments on list servs and other forums. There are so many questions on how to get started, what to include in your training, and how much training is enough.

Well, you are in luck! The new and improved Healthcare Simulation Standards of Best Practice™ were published in fall 2021. Included in this publication is a new standard entitled Healthcare Simulation Standards of Best Practice™ Professional Development that provides a simple guide to direct simulationists in their professional journey. 

Professional development is not a one-time shot – it is ongoing. The role of a simulationist and the elements of each job description vary from institution to institution. The Professional Development standard ensures “the simulationist is trained at all levels of simulation design, implementation, and evaluation” (INACSL Standards Committee and Hallmark et al., 2021, p.5). We have a few suggested steps to get you started!

  1. Work with your faculty and other educators by doing a needs assessment. Have them do a self-assessment. What knowledge do they bring? What strengths do they have? What is their role in simulation? Use this information to create a development plan. We all come with different backgrounds and experiences so how to get started is not always clear cut – one size does not fit all.
  2. The 2021 edition of the Annual Review of Nursing Research focused on simulation-based education. Watts, Hallmark, and Beroz (2021) contributed a chapter on professional development for simulation education and offer a framework for providing simulation content based on Benner’s novice to expert theory as in the table below.
Benner’s Novice to Expert LevelSimulation Content
Novice/Advanced BeginnerEducational Theory. Standards of Best Practice, Facilitation Methods and Modalities
Competent/ProficientCurriculum Integration, Advanced Debriefing, Evaluation and Certification
ExpertLeadership, Scholarship, and Advanced Certification
  1. Be sure to look at the evidence for developing your faculty/educators. The new standard provides a multitude of resources.
  2. Attend a simulation conference, participate in a webinar, network with other simulationists, or even complete a certificate program.
  3. Look for local and regional alliances such as the Tennessee Simulation Alliance or the California Simulation Alliance.
  4. The NLN has several sources such as the Simulation Innovation Resource Center (SIRC), as well as free webinars.
  5. Join professional organizations such as the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, INACSL, ASPE, and the Global Network for Simulation in Healthcare.

There are always challenges. The most common are lack of time and the availability of resources. Sound familiar? Educators fill many roles with competing demands. However, the pandemic has shown simulation to be a profound methodology to meet expected teaching-learning outcomes.

The benefits of trained educators are abundant. According to the Healthcare Simulation Standard of Best PracticeTM Facilitation, having trained educators is imperative for quality simulation experiences and positive outcomes. REMEMBER: The facilitator has full oversight for the simulation experience.

And one final step. Be sure to reevaluate your professional development progress and update your plan!


INACSL Standards Committee, Hallmark, B., Brown, M., Peterson, D., Fey, M., Decker, iS., Wells-Beede, E., Britt, T., Hardie, L., Shum, C., Arantes, H., Charnetski, M., & Morse, C.  (2021). Healthcare Simulation Standards of Best PracticeTM Professional Development. Clinical Simulation in Nursing.

INACSL Standards Committee, Persico, L., Belle, A., DiGregorio, H., Wilson-Keates, B., & Shelton, C.  (2021). Healthcare Simulation Standards of Best PracticeTM Facilitation. Clinical Simulation in Nursing,

Watts, P.I., Hallmark, B.F., & Beroz, S. (2020). Professional Development for Simulation Education. In C. Kasper & T. Schneidereith (Eds), Annual Review of Nursing Research, 39(1), 201-220.

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