Connected Conversations | Michael Gilmour

What do you get when you combine health, robots, and acting? Simulation Technician, Michael Gilmour, tells us exactly what. Taking us behind-the-scenes at the state-of-the-art Adelaide Health Simulation (AHS), he reveals there's a little more 'lights, camera, action' than you might expect.

Image of Michael Gilmour sitting on a bed at the Adelaide Health Simulation.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m Michael Gilmour and I am the Senior Simulation Technician for Adelaide Health Simulation (AHS). The follow-up question to that is usually “Oh cool! ...Umm what is that?”. The answer is pretty cool: “I work with robots”, which isn’t far from the truth. My role isn’t strictly IT, support or administrative–it’s a bit of everything. I work behind the scenes to bring our teaching sessions and simulation scenarios to life. I collaborate with educators to create scenarios which help achieve goals or student learning objectives through the use of simulation as a teaching tool and I also implement the technology that supports them. 

For context, when I say we run scenarios, I mean we have Standardised Patients or SPs (real actors that pretend to be sick for students) in a clinical room waiting for the participating students to come in and be assessed and treated. When we cannot use SPs in a scenario, we can use high-fidelity, highly-realistic manikins. These manikins can do things like talk, blink, bleed, breathe, have obstructed airways, have live pulses, have a urinary output and one manikin can even give birth! Accompanying these manikins, we record the scenarios and release or debrief the footage for student feedback or self-reflection. My team teaches and supports a wide range of areas of the University such as the Adelaide Medical School, Adelaide Nursing School, School of Psychology, Adelaide Dental School, and the School of Allied Health Science and Practice, that participate in our sessions, simulations and exams.

What was your first area of study?

Considering what I do for a job, the answer to this question may surprise you… I actually studied acting! I’d love to say I was a huge up-and-coming Australian talent with the world at my feet, maybe even the next Hugh Jackman perhaps? But no, nope, not at all. While I am still active in that field and have found success in various SA film, web and television projects, life took me down a different path where I could use some of the skills gained in my acting career and implement them into simulation. My current role as a Simulation Technician is not something that exists to study, so my knowledge (or ‘study’) came when I started working for AHS. I actually feel the Simulation Technician role is very familiar territory for some actors. There are lights, there are cameras, there is acting/voice acting, cues, props etc. I’m not saying all actors are perfect for this job because you do need to be tech-savvy and have a strong interest in technology. Along with networking and presenting at conferences, everything I know has come down to initiative, practice, and self-study. 

How did you get to where you are today? 

I hate to use the clichéd phrase of ‘hard work and commitment pays off’ but I do feel that served me well in this case. I went from working as a casually employed SP to where I am today as the leader of a seven-person technical team at AHS. My journey in health simulation started at the University of Adelaide in 2008 when I turned 18 and became an SP. I was a casual SP for seven years and then, one day, the Adelaide Health Simulation Centre (which was growing at the time) asked me to come in and act for some more intensive scenarios. Between performing ‘seizures’ and ‘code black’ (personal threat) scenarios, I took a keen interest in the technology, the manikins, the AV and how simulation ran as a whole and what it achieved. I guess I impressed them because I soon began doing some part-time technical work, which later moved to full-time work and then, in September 2019, I became the technical team leader. It’s a fun story but I do owe a lot to my managers for believing in me, trusting me, and giving me the opportunities to showcase what I can do with the skills that I have acquired. 

What would you say to your 18-year-old self, commencing their time at university?

First thing I’d say to 18-year-old me would be to change the haircut and shave that ghastly goatee. What the heck was I thinking? …Sorry about that, anyway, I would say: “Do not be too disheartened that the path you want to go down may not work out the way you want it to. That path may lead to other wonderful things.” I would encourage him to continue to be open-minded and commit 100% to the tasks given.

What do you love most about your job?

I love working in a team and the passion and enthusiasm my whole team brings to their job. I also love the technology that comes with this job. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and I am lucky to be able to identify technology or equipment that will benefit our simulations. I get to work with $600,000 robots and state-of-the-art AV technology. I love bringing planned scenarios to life and delivering it in a safe and fun way where students can learn so much about and from each other. I love seeing students walk out of a session smiling and saying things like “That was so good!” or “I learnt so much today” or “How did they do that?”. It brings me so much joy to know that I’ve helped make a difference to a student’s learning or approach to situations. Since COVID-19, my team and I have been busy filming, editing and delivering content online. I have been given the opportunity to get creative with filming skills training videos, scenarios, and presentations for multiple schools as well as the Royal Adelaide Hospital. This job is never dull!

What do you do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my wife and two kids. Being a father of two very young kids doesn’t provide me with much spare time these days but, when I can get time to myself, I’ll go to the gym or binge-watch some TV shows. I also still have one foot in the acting scene because I’ll always have a great passion for acting and I get to scratch that itch by appearing frequently on a successful YouTube channel.

What are your hopes for 2021?

On a personal level, the obvious answer right now is for COVID-19 to disappear so life can get back to normal! I cannot wait to travel again and head back to Scotland to introduce my new son to my family. On a professional level, I’d like to present at some more conferences, either online or in-person, as well as possibly gain certification as a Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist (CHSOS) by the Society of Simulation in Healthcare (SSH). 

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