INACSL: Tell us about your personal and professional background.
Cynthia: I am a mom to four boys, which means that much of what I have learned while raising energetic boys has applied to my roles in teaching and in administration. I homeschooled my boys for ten years, and was engaged in active learning and competency-based learning before I ever knew of those terms! After homeschooling, I went back to school and completed my MSN in nursing education in 2013 at the University of Central Missouri, and completed my doctoral work at Indiana University in 2016. I am currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, where I also serve as the Director of Simulation in the School of Nursing.
INACSL: How did you become interested in simulation?
Cynthia: I began my role in simulation many years ago as a new nurse educator in the Kansas City area. This was quite challenging because I had no experience in simulation and very little in nursing education! Because of my lack of knowledge and skills, I began to network with other simulation educators across the metropolitan area and found a wealth of knowledge and resources in multiple nursing programs and hospitals. This led to forming a simulation interest group in Kansas City, which later contributed to the development of the Kansas City Regional Simulation Alliance. I am all too familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of being unprepared for a role in simulation education and because of that I am passionate about ensuring that all educators receive the necessary training and preparation to fulfill their role in facilitating learning.
INACSL: Explain your current role in simulation. Please elaborate.
Cynthia: I am currently the Director of Simulation in the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota, where there are multiple nursing programs that are each engaged in numerous simulation learning activities. I also serve on the oversight team for M Simulation, a collaboration of the health sciences at the University of Minnesota. Each of the health sciences is focused on providing learning experiences within each individual profession, interprofessionally, and in collaboration with community partners.
Within INACSL, I have been involved in the development of the ISEP courses and I have been involved in the INACSL/National League for Nursing Debriefing Across the Curriculum initiative. I have also served as chair of the INACSL Regulatory Initiatives Committee, which resulted in the Simulation Regulations Map and a summary article that can be found on the INACSL website. Through this work, I will continue to advocate for clear and consistent guidelines both nationally and internationally that inform nursing programs in the regulation of clinical education hours. Simulation is a form of clinical education - thus the requirements and preparation of faculty who teach in clinical and simulation settings should be consistent. It seems that since simulation was initially the ‘new kid on the block,’ there has been a high level of scrutiny of the types of learning experiences used in simulation and the requirements of those teaching in simulation. Because we can demonstrate strong learning outcomes in simulation, it is a great time to re-examine how to maximize learning experiences and preparation to teach in both settings.
INACSL: What value do you see in simulation as a teaching-learning strategy?
Cynthia: Simulation is supported by multiple learning theories as an active type of learning, and there are numerous positive outcomes resulting from simulation learning experiences. One of the main values of simulation is that it is a form of clinical education in which we can ensure that each learner experiences consistent patient encounters and common clinical and communication learning experiences. My program of research has focused on debriefing, which we have found to be so important to simulation learning that we are now using debriefing practices outside of simulation in multiple learning settings. Simulation is the only method for allowing learners to think and act in a professional role without any risk of harm to a patient or risk of damaging the psychological milieu of the learner.
INACSL: How have the INACSL Standards of Best Practice impacted your simulation program?
Cynthia: The INACSL Standards of Best Practice serve as a consistent framework for all simulation programs. The Standards provide common language and understanding for educators in all aspects of simulation learning. I appreciate that the Standards are a dynamic work, and are continually reevaluated and revised based on current evidence.
INACSL: In closing, what advice do you have for simulation educators?
Cynthia: As simulation increases in use across the health sciences, the rigor and science of this pedagogy is also expanding. I have three words of encouragement to simulation educators. First, it is important to empirically test our simulation methods and outcomes as we intentionally strive to improve our practices and build the evidence for this important teaching and learning method. Second, we must disseminate these findings through professional conference poster and podium presentations, in written publications, and through other training resources in order to prepare all simulation educators. The health sciences are evidence-based practice professions, and it is imperative that our use of simulation in our respective programs is also evidence-based. And third, network, network, network! No one is alone in this journey, and I have never met a simulation educator who was not willing to help share their knowledge and experiences. Reach out to members of INACSL and other professional organizations in person at conferences, but also virtually through email, webinars, and any online offerings that are available. I have met many simulation experts because I boldly emailed one initial question. There is power in numbers, and we need a team to walk this path together!