Unanticipated teaching demands rise with simulation training: Strategies for managing faculty workload

Robert D. Acton, Jeffrey G. Chipman, Michelle Lunden, Connie C. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Introduction Using simulation to teach and assess learners represents a powerful approach to training, but one that comes with hidden costs in terms of faculty time, even if programs adopt existing curricula. Some simulators are built to be used independently by learners, but much of the surgical simulation curricula developed for cognitive and psychomotor tasks requires active faculty involvement and low learner-to-faculty teaching ratios to ensure sufficient practice with feedback. The authors hypothesize that the added teaching demands related to simulation have resulted in a significant financial burden to surgery training programs. To date, the effect of simulation-based training on faculty workload has not been estimated objectively and reported in the literature. Methods To test their hypothesis, the authors analyzed data from 2 sources: (1) changes over time (2006-2014) in formal teaching hours and estimated faculty costs at the University of Minnesota, General Surgery Department and (2) a 2014 online survey of general surgery program directors on their use of simulation for teaching and assessment and their perceptions of workload effects. Results At the University of Minnesota, the total number of hours spent by department faculty in resident and student simulation events increased from 81 in annual year 2006 to 365 in annual year 2013. Estimated full-time equivalent faculty costs rose by 350% during the same period. Program directors (n = 48) of Association of Program Directors in Surgery reported either a slight (60%) or a significant (33%) increase in faculty workload with the advent of simulation, and moderate difficulty in finding enough instructors to meet this increase. Calling upon leadership for support, using diverse instructor types, and relying on "the dedicated few" represent the most common strategies. Conclusion To avoid faculty burnout and successfully sustain faculty investment in simulation-based training over time, programs need to be creative in building, sustaining, and managing the instructor workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-529
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of surgical education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Association of Program Directors in Surgery.


  • Cost
  • Faculty
  • Resident Education
  • Simulation
  • Surgery


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