By: Tonya Schneidereith and Crystel L. Farina
Previously in this series we helped you think about simulation readiness, the role of strategic planning, different ways to conceptualize staffing models, and the importance of systems management. Now, in part 5, we identify the financial considerations to support stability and sustainability of your simulation program.
We have both been involved in simulation for a while now, and one thing that we know for sure is that simulation-based education can be very expensive. Budgeting for these expenses is complicated because budgeting for a simulation program requires predictions — predictions of equipment longevity, predictions of enrollment, and predictions of tuition-based income — all part of the financial forecast for the upcoming fiscal and 5-year budgets. Therefore, in order to sustain your program, you must have a formalized plan to analyze yearly cycle costs and compare them with predicted revenues and expenses. As you prepare your budget, do not forget to include those fixed expenses related to overhead and utilities (e.g., laundry, biohazards). In addition, identify places in the budget where you may need to cut spending, and also have a list of how you could use surplus funds.
Utilize your program’s mission and vision statements when making decisions about the allotment of funds and ask your financial director for assistance to confirm that your simulation budget predictions align with the program’s predictions. Quarterly financial meetings can ensure that forecasts are aligned or adjusted as needed. Also, consider annual meetings with stakeholders to help guide spending.
Think outside the box for ways to save money and generate revenue. Before hitting that submit button for reorders, for example, consider how to recycle and reuse your simulation supplies. You can spike IV bags with a golf tee or hang and dry IV tubing for future use. Make copies of paper inserts that come with IV tubing and place one inside a resealable bag for perfect repackaging. You can also rewrap or repurpose Foley and dressing change kits. As an example, you can use discarded and unused sterile drapes from Foley kits to make your own central line dressing change kits.
As for generating revenue, think about developing continuing education programs through community partnerships and dynamic interprofessional collaborations. Talk with academic educators and hospital administrators to identify those repeated errors related to patient safety. Can you create an interprofessional development day to train health care staff to avoid that error? You will be generating revenue alongside increased patient safety, but keep in mind the impact that this may have on scheduling. Make sure you have policies and procedures that can guide prioritization of events…especially when generating revenue.
Is it possible to put your sim center on display by offering tours to community groups? We know that donors are proud to showcase equipment that they had a role in purchasing, and that often entices other donors to make donations. We once had a university president donate a pediatric manikin that the department named after him. He was so proud and would take every chance to bring tours to see his “mini-me.” It was the gift that kept on giving!
To increase sustainability, be on the lookout for the best offers on supplies and equipment. Routinely check with new vendors, as they are often willing to decrease costs to make the sale. As vendors may offer discounts for buying in bulk, consider bulk-ordering nonperishables for multiple semesters. In addition, vendors will sometimes offer consortium pricing or specials at specific times of the year. For example, as winter break can be a slow time for vendors, they will frequently decrease prices to generate revenue. Likewise, plan early for end-of-fiscal-year purchases as spending allocated funds before the time expires can cause increased demand and backorders. These may cause you to miss out if your needs are time-sensitive.
Finally, make a spreadsheet that can show the impact of your simulation program on the overall organization’s costs and/or savings. Important areas include resource management, educational effectiveness, and educational efficiency. Demonstrating the number of students educated will translate into manikin usage, supply needs, and workload. This information can go toward supporting the need for more equipment, more supplies, and more human resources.
Although we know that simulation-based education offers an extraordinary way to learn, it often comes down to dollars and cents. How have you been able to support stability, sustainability, and the growth of your program?