The SOTS section of SSH advocates for recognition as a profession 

Athena Ryals
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In this article, Athena Ryals talks about the emerging recognition of simulation technicians in medical education, advocating for their acknowledgment as professionals. SIM techs, with diverse backgrounds and skills, are essential in creating realistic training environments, proving they are much more than just ‘technicians’.

There is a lot of weight behind the word “profession.” It implies history, a cohesive group of people working towards a common goal. There is pride in a profession. There is respect. And – a point that has become increasingly important in this economy – there is usually fair financial compensation for your labor in a profession as well.  

As society has industrialized and knowledge has become circulated, many jobs have shifted from “crafts” or “trades” to “professions.” Prior to the 1600s, anyone who held a thick enough book and looked like they knew what they were talking about could peddle their opinions as a doctor. However, around the turn of the 19th century, the profession of “doctor” was becoming solidified as a standard of practice. Similarly, nursing was typically carried out in the home or under the care of religious figures such as nuns until the 1850s. Florence Nightingale famously revolutionized how hospital care was conducted during the Crimean War, and is regarded as being the founder of the profession of nursing.  

Simulation is currently undergoing a similar revolution. The first medical simulation task trainer, Resusci Annie, was released in 1960, and the field has been slowly evolving since then. The first medical simulation conferences took place in the 1980s, and even back then there was hot debate as to the value and validity of medical simulation. Just as fierce, though, was simulation’s defense; Dr. David Gaba asserted in an April 1992 issue of The Journal of Anesthesiology that “No industry in which human lives depend on the skilled performance of responsible operators has waited for the unequivocal proof of the benefit of simulation before embracing it.” 

The early 2000s saw a great increase in the creation of centers dedicated entirely to the education of students through medical simulation. SSH was founded in 2004, although it was called Society for Medical Simulation at the time. Simulation was still primarily being conducted by people with a background in healthcare, and it was not (usually) their primary job. 

It’s only in the 2010s that our modern idea of the simulation technician began to emerge. And, just like so many trades that came before, we are refining and improving our craft such that we, too, now deserve to claim the title of “professional.” The 2024 theme for the Simulation Operations and Technology Section of SSH is #SimProfessional – an intentional move away from the title of “technician” that is so often thrown around in sim centers today.

A sim tech is never just a sim tech. We bring with us a background, be that a background in healthcare, engineering, psychology, or something else. We have to be good with technology, but we also have to be good with people, too – and that means people of every type. We must be able to guide a nervous student, and de-escalate a frustrated facilitator. Some of us have to be experts in managing an entire sim center all on our own. Some of us are whizzes at accreditation. Others of us can create moulage that belongs on prestige television. And still others of us write the grants that keep our centers afloat.  

We are so much more than technicians and specialists, because we must specialize in so many different things. By the very nature of our work, we must be an expert in everything and always be willing to learn new technology and changing standards of practice. We must be curious self-starters. We must be willing to hold ourselves to the highest standards – because lives depend on it.  

And if that’s not the mark of a professional, I don’t know what is.  


Doctor of medicine profession (MD). MedlinePlus. 

Moody, J. (2021, June 24). History of nursing timeline: How nursing education has evolved. Post University. 

Rosen, K. R. (2008). The history of medical simulation. Journal of Critical Care, 23(2), 157–166. 

Gaba, D. (1992). Improving anesthesiologists’ performance by simulating reality. Anesthesiology, 76(4), 491–494. 


Athena Ryals

Athena Ryals

Simulation Operations Specialist at Carle Illinois College of Medicine View all Posts

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