Dry Runs: Vital to Simulation Success

Dry runs are critical to simulation success.

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Do you find yourself making changes to a simulation after your first few students complete their experience? Avkin’s consultants will always drive home the importance of dry runs (or pilots) to ensure standardization. To stay consistent with ASPE Standards of Best Practice, I will be referring to them as dry runs.

Dry runs always happen before the first simulation takes place. This is to test the simulation and discover weaknesses or missed objectives. Changes can then be made to address these issues before students ever experience the simulation. Our advice comes from personal experience; we did not originally complete dry runs until the INACSL Standard of Best Practice came out. Once we learned about dry runs, we incorporated them with great success.

Getting started with Dry Runs

The perfect time to implement your dry run is whenever you implement a new simulation or a change to an existing simulation. 

Once you have the simulation written, the first step is to establish your team. You want to have the facilitator of the simulation, the content expert (or subject matter expert), and your simulation lead. If you are incorporating Simulated Participants, be sure to include the SP Educator.

Next, send the simulation to the entire team and block off time in everyone’s schedule as appropriate. If your dry run will take 30 minutes, block off an hour; if it will take an hour, block off two hours. The SP Educator should also schedule an experienced SP for the dry run. The simulation lead should reach out and book students to participate as learners; these students should have just finished the class in their previous semester.

*Note: Do not allow nursing faculty to play the role of the student. They already have a preconceived notion of how the simulation should play out and give an inauthentic preview as to how your students will navigate the simulation.

Preparing ahead of time

Send prep work to the students the day before, allowing them to adequately prepare as they would for a typical simulation. The SP should receive the character from the SP educator and ask any questions they have. Be sure the dry run will be in the same room as the actual simulation, with all required equipment in the correct spots ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is to interrupt the dry run for a preventable issue.

On the Day of the Dry Run

Simulation faculty should meet with the students, orient them to the room, and then step out to do the pre-briefing. The SP Educator should bring the SP into the room after the students have left and get them prepared for their role. Once the dry run begins, it should play out like any other simulation, with the entire simulation team watching from the control room. If the simulation takes a left turn, the facilitator can stop the dry run, conduct a quick debrief, and provide whatever coaching is needed. If necessary, start the simulation again from the beginning, implementing the changes to the simulation.

In Conclusion

Once the team is happy with how the simulation is conducted, everyone on the team should mutually agree on any changes needed in the simulation or the character played by the SP. All changes should be finalized in the simulation, converted to a PDF for posterity, and sent to the entire team. Further changes should not be made once the dry run has been completed. Any future changes should be verified with another dry run.

Introducing an SP into a simulation emphasizes the need for a dry run before the simulation occurs. Every member of the simulation team must be on the same page to ensure the proper equipment is available, and that the SP is behaving appropriately. 

Without a dry run, everyone will have their own assumptions of how the simulation will play out, and conflicting signals will harm the fidelity of the simulation. You and your team will be happy you took the time to prepare and plan ahead of time.

Your Partner to Success

Avkin’s professional consultants are ready to guide your program and faculty to success. To learn more about how we can help your program with tailor-made advice, check out our website.

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