Baked Beans and Healthcare Simulation

6 Top Tips for Delivering Manikin Based Simulation on a Budget

Due to cost and lack of expertise, healthcare simulation is slow to take off in Ireland and to date, it has mostly been limited to postgraduate training. Every aspect of healthcare simulation is expensive, from the facilities and initial outlay to the equipment, staffing and daily maintenance and is seen by many as an expensive luxury. Having spent almost 10 years delivering manikin based simulation on a budget in an undergraduate environment, I have had to think outside the box and have learned every trick in the book. Here are a few of my top tips.


  1. Go mobile

If you do not have a facility to deliver manikin based simulation, then go mobile. This will help you keep your facilities, equipment and manikin costs down. Excellent quality small cameras can be purchased for as little as €99 each. Add good quality wireless microphones, a mixing board and a few cables and you are set.

We use teamviewer and wondershare software to view the action and to transmit it to a viewing room and we use a simpad to run the manikin. Over time we’ve developed a very slick set up, with our equipment fitting into a few small boxes and taking around one hour to install or takedown.


  1. Haemoptyis SimulatedFood props

Without a doubt – the 3 best and most versatile food props are:

  • Blackcurrant and blackberry conserve for all types of blood, melaena, haematemesis, haematochezia, blood clots etc.
  • Yellow food colouring for various urine colours in stomas and bags, jaundice and when mixed with bethadine makes good bile too!
  • Baked beans mixed with a variety of coffee colours for vomitus, diarrhoea, stoma contents.

If you are particularly fond of any of the above, I suggest looking for an alternative, as they may not hold the same appeal, once you have seen them in use in your scenario!


  1. Cost effective manikin

For undergraduate students, a very hi spec manikin is not necessary. With some minor adaptations, a basic manikin like Megacode Kelly is more than adequate and is 7 times cheaper than his hi tech top of the range counterpart. We have upgraded the speaker and purchased some additional props for him – oedema pads for legs and venipuncture pads that we strap to his arms.  He can be used with a simpad and a small monitor.

He fits into his carrier bag and into the back of your car easily and is ideal for mobile sim.


  1. Simulation wires and equipmentCables, connections and lots of tape!

You can never have enough long cables when running mobile manikin sim – this includes phone leads, cables and connections of all sorts. Have plenty of electrical tape to tape them to the ground so that no one falls over them. Until we have found a cheap wireless version that we are happy with, lots of cables are required.



  1. Reusing paperwork for scenarios

For mobile hi fi sim you will need some realistic paperwork to run scenarios – patient clinical notes, charts, observation sheets, ECGs, chest xrays etc. Make them reusable by dating them with “today” or “two days ago” etc. rather than the actual date. We call all of our patients the same name so that a bank of ABGs and radiographs can be used across multiple scenarios. We have a respiratory acidosis ABG, metabolic acidosis ABG, normal CXR, COPD CXR etc. etc. all on file. If completing paper drug sheets as part of the scenario, provide the learners with a pencil so that you can erase and re use the sheet for the next scenario.


  1. Virtual PatientVirtual Patients

As an alternative – use a virtual patient platform to deliver simulation based learning to large numbers.

Medical Exam Tutor is a virtual patients platform designed to improve decision making skills and can be used on its own or as pre-course learning material prior to manikin based simulation – this can focus  your sessions and debrief.




Simulation can no longer be seen as a luxury or a “nice to have.”If cost is preventing you from getting your simulation programme moving, don’t forget that there are all kinds of ways to get maximum efficiency for less.

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