Volunteerism and Seeking Help

Revised: November 2023

Contributors: Holly Sarvas, Alex Wood

Disclaimer: Work with your institution to recruit volunteers that ensures minimal risk for liability through contracts and proper orientation. Ensure proper training on supplies and equipment is provided prior to independent performance. This does not provide all the information you will need to start integrating volunteers, but rather acts as guidance for idea generation.


Volunteers can be integral to starting up a simulation or skills lab at your center. Volunteers can help with assembly, set-up, tear-down, and acting as standardized patients or confederates. When you are wearing multiple hats at a healthcare institution, having an extra set of hands, or extra bodies, can motivate you to keep learning at the forefront for your staff and learners.

We encourage the reader to access the Standardized Patient module to read more in-depth about the recruitment and integration of standardized patients in a rural/remote location, including considerations for training, contracts, safety, and more!

Volunteers may include students, members of the community, colleagues in different professions, or other individuals who are accessible to you.

Help for set-up, tear-down, and implementation

A great way to integrate volunteers is to have them help with setting up the space, the skills stations, or the manikin prior to the training session. This can help individuals become more informed about the tools and expectations used for various skills or scenarios. This is great for students who are on placement or interested in the field of healthcare, who may want to ask questions along the way of setting up.

During implementation volunteers may act as Standardized Patients, as confederates (see below), or they may aid in helping operate the monitor, the manikin, or other pieces of technology. There are virtual monitors for vital signs available online (Bailey, 2013) that are accessible for free. If you have a volunteer in your community who is great with technology, they may be able to create a set-up that pulls up vital signs, x-ray images, labwork, etc. to create buy-in for your learners. Volunteers can also help with resetting skills stations if you are practice skills several times. This can keep the area free of fluids, sharps, and waste, allowing learners to better focus on the task at hand.

Another potential for volunteers during implementation is to have them involved in the debrief. This can happen in one of three ways. First, you can have healthcare content-experts volunteer to view the simulation or skills virtually using videoconferencing and then engage in a tele-debrief (Honda & McCoy, 2022). Tele-debriefing for skills is still seen as an effective tool, and can allow your learners to receive quality feedback and coaching without worrying about travel costs. Second, you can have standardized patients be part of the debrief following a simulation to explain their perception based on their role. This is explained more in-depth in the Standardized Patient module. Lastly, you can have community members be part of the debrief as a person with lived experience. For example, if someone has been living with diabetes and you are talking about wound care management, having an individual with diabetes discuss their health journey, and what instructions benefited them, may be incredibly helpful to the empathy and learning in rural-remote settings. This needs to be balanced alongside the therapeutic relationship of the community member, which is explained in more depth in the Standardized Patient module.

Finally, volunteers can help with tearing down the event, ensuring items are properly put away and disposed of for safety reasons. Volunteers can also help with inventory of supplies if the training sessions are occurring in a healthcare setting to make sure nothing gets mixed into healthcare supplies. Having the extra help during tear down can help against burn out for trainers and educators while keeping spaces clean and orderly for next use.

Help as a confederate

Confederates as defined as: “An individual(s) who, during the course of the clinical scenario, provides assistance locating and/or troubleshooting equipment. This individual(s) may provide support for participants in the form of ‘help available’, e.g. ‘nurse in charge’, and/or to provide information about the manikin that is not available in other ways, e.g., temperature, color change, and/or to provide additional realism by playing the role of a relative or a staff member” (Lioce et al., 2016).

Volunteers can be inserted as runners, as healthcare actors, or as individuals available to troubleshoot equipment, or keep learners safe during scenarios. Training for the confederate role should happen in advance, either with walk-throughs or a dry-run. Volunteers should be selected carefully based on their role, that they have an appreciation for scope of help they can provide, and what they could say to help the learner out. If there is ever a doubt about what help can be provided, a written script should be given to the volunteer confederate. A confederate is more often seen as helpful during a simulated scenario, rather than during a skills station.

Help with assembling DIY task trainers

While we have tried our best to make easy step-by-step instructions for all the modules presented here, the actual creation may not be your cup of tea!

Volunteers who are more craft or DIY-savvy can help educators actually build up the task trainers so the educators can focus on teaching! Make sure the volunteers have the proper PPE (gloves, as needed eyewear), and have a proper appreciation for reading the instructions for supplies. Volunteers can be especially helpful if a large number of task trainers need to be designed (e.g. making 20 suture/staple pads for a mass training day), or for complex task trainers where extra attention to detail is needed (e.g. a large undermining wound with necrotic tissue integrated).


Bailey, L. (2013, Mar 8). Free Downloadable Vital Signs Simulator & Patient Monitor. Healthy Simulation . https://www.healthysimulation.com/3032/downloadable-vital-sign-simulator-patient-monitor/.

Honda, R. & McCoy, C.E. (2022, Sept 26). Tele-debriefing in medical simulation. Stat Pearls . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546584/.

Lioce L. (Ed.), Lopreiato J. (Founding Ed.), Downing D., Chang T.P., Robertson J.M., Anderson M., Diaz D.A., and Spain A.E. (Assoc. Eds.) and the Terminology and Concepts Working Group (2020), Healthcare Simulation Dictionary –Second Edition. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; September 2020. AHRQ Publication No. 20-0019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.23970/simulationv2.