Upping the Ante: Inside the Simulation Studio, Way Outside the Box

 By Kris Slawinski

With intriguing announcements regarding “The Simulation Studio” appearing on the SP Trainer listserv, we contacted Tony Errichetti, Chief of Virtual Medicine and Director of the Institute for Clinical Competence at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM), for more info.

First conceived by Tony and co-founder Laurie Schroeder, Medical Education & SP Trainer, St. Barnabas, as a way to “have fun and infuse some new energy into the field,” the first iteration of this event, titled “Inside the SP Studio,” was held on May 24, 2011 in Manhattan. It attracted 175 attendees from seven states, including SPs, SP educators, sim techs, and SP and simulation program administrators, with SPs representing about 60% of the total.

The conference title has since been changed to “Inside the Simulation Studio” (ISS), to appeal to anyone working in human simulation. Thus the mission of the Simulation Studio is wide-ranging, focusing on how simulations are used in health care, legal and professional training, the military, lifestyle, entertainment and career development. In short, the ISS is intended to be educational, entertaining, and a networking opportunity for all attendees.

The three ISS conferences scheduled for 2012 are titled—and themed–“The Art of Human Simulation: Innovative Takes on an Emerging Field.” The first, on May 14th, will be hosted by Villanova U College of Nursing in Villanova, PA. NYCOM is hosting on May 17 in Manhattan; and June 18 will be in Oakland, CA, at Samuel Merritt U. The ISS is free, available only to professionals working in the field, with host institutions providing meeting space. Creative use of free resources such as email and social media keep other related costs down, though Errichetti admits to pulling out his plastic when need be.

Creativity is key to this event. Solicited presenters have 10 minutes to get their message across, and are urged to avoid “death by Powerpoint” by using innovations such as “Ignite,” “pecha kucha,” and Prezi to be short, informative and lively. According to Tony, “We aim for about 25% tell—Powerpoint if necessary—and 75% show—demos,” and he cites TED Talks, Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message,” and Ira Glass’s This American Life as influences on his thinking about presentation methods and message delivery.

Tony characterizes the ISSs as “pop-up” conferences having “little infrastructure, no committee to bog things down, very hands-on and shaped. We spend a lot of time talking to the presenters about what they will present, and more importantly, how. We hire a director, time everything out and decide how the conference will flow. Everything is done on stage to keep things focused. There are no breakout groups, no long-winded keynote addresses. It should be entertaining to make serious points.” He admits to wanting to “infuse some new energy into the field,” and, not surprisingly, adds, “I should have been a Hollywood producer.”

Tony also admits that his very personal approach to designing conference content and forcing perceived constraints on invited presenters is “audacious.” But he had an epiphany while conversing with Gayle Gliva after attending a patient safety conference that he described as being “deadly.” “Where is the art in it?” she responded. This provoked Tony to ask himself, “If there is an art in this work, how do we bring that to the forefront without trivializing it?” He decided that presentations should have substance while allowing for personality, experience, and passion, spur creativity and challenge the audience.

Upcoming presentations include Devra Cohen on “Making the Discussion of Death Come to Life: Using SP Simulations to Train Medical Personnel in Bioethics and the Art of Moral Imagination”; Heather Franz, Albany Medical College on “Debriefing SP Encounters”; and Simulation Studio Production music video “Let Me Debrief You,” among others.

When asked what his biggest surprise, challenge and/or success has been with this endeavor, Tony admitted that SP receptivity was gratifying, though not surprising. However, he was surprised by how intimidated experienced presenters were by the challenge of creative new means of presenting. Challenges included getting people to come, organizing the event, and doing it on a shoestring budget. As for success, Tony replied, ‘I’m not sure this is a success yet!”

For more information regarding the ISS 2012 events, email: register.simstudio@gmail.com.

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