Simulation provides a way to make up for this - it provides nursing students with opportunities to practice their clinical and decision-making skills through various real-life situational experiences. What's more, this increased use of simulation and nursing simulation scenarios, specifically, is also being driven by trends like a shortage of nurse educators and patient confidentiality concerns at hospital-based clinical training sites.
But simulated teaching has become so high tech, that it's not only for nursing students to use for practice, but it's also being used by new nursing graduates, as well as more experienced nurses who want to learn more, or improve upon, their skills. This simulated training is extremely useful, because, for one, as our nation's population ages, we will need more nurses to become more proficient in their care in order to take care of this patient demographic. Plus, many studies show that simulation-based nursing education interventions have strong educational effects.
Benefits of simulated learning for nurses
There are various types of simulation: Screen-based/PC-based simulation, virtual patients, human patient simulator and integrated models, to name a few. High-fidelity simulations involve the use of computerized mannequins that can be programmed to exhibit a wide range of patient conditions. Used for years in medical schools and the military, high-fidelity patient simulations (HPS) has become essential for many nursing schools, as they promote skills acquisition, aid development of clinical judgment, and teach students about complex clinical situations with lifelike examples - all without exposing “real" patients to unnecessary risk.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing notes that there are many advantages of simulation over actual clinical experience, including:
- Reduces training variability and increases standardization
- Can be customized for individualized learning
- Is truly student-centered, experiential learning instead of passive learning
- Allows for independent critical-thinking and decision-making, and delegation
- Allows Immediate feedback
- Offers opportunity to practice rare and critical events
- Can be designed and manipulated
- Allows calibration and update
- Can be reproduced
- Occurs on schedule
- Offers opportunities to make and learn from mistakes
- Is safe and respectful for patients
Literature supports the idea that simulation-based education with deliberative practice can achieve specific clinical goals relating to patient safety. Meanwhile, the National League of Nursing has endorsed study findings that conclude that simulation can be substituted for up to 50 percent of traditional clinical experiences.
“Simulation creates transformational learning experience for all nursing students and provides diverse perspectives on caring for patients across the continuum of care," states the NLN. "Learning in simulation allows for situated cognition - or learning in context - a concept at the forefront of contemporary educational reform. As teachers and learners move away from content-laden curricula to curricula that emphasize experiential learning, it is critical that nurse educators have the requisite knowledge and skills to use simulation to its full potential. An element of learner self-reflection is core to all methods."
Plus, a simulation scenario focused on a single concept can be used for multiple programs of study. For example, a simulation involving medication safety can be used for both prelicensure students and graduate students. This allows instructors and administrators to design simulations for learners in multiple programs while maximizing human, space, and financial resources.
And, perhaps the most important reason to use simulation in nursing education: Students love using it! A happy learner is an engaged learner!