Group of nurse medical students discussion in front of laptop
HealthMay 20, 2021

Evolving nursing trends: Simulation, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence

By: Heather Swift, MSN, RN
Our goal in nursing education is to promote critical thinking skills, prioritization, decision making and application of nursing knowledge to produce safe, competent nurses.

This is primarily done through classroom instruction, clinical sites, and laboratory days, however, with limited clinical sites and patient access the students are getting less hands-on time to practice and apply knowledge at the bedside. Unintentionally widening the theory to practice gap. We must look at the alternatives to gain experience for our students. All while adapting the definition of experience to mean it doesn’t have to be in person or at the bedside to count. In this post, I’d like to specifically address the evolving nursing trends in 2021 as they relate to simulation, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

Using simulation in nursing education

Simulation has become an important and necessary part of nursing education. It is an organized scenario that replicates a real-life clinical situation using a team and high-fidelity manikins to role-play the likely outcome through a series of assessments and decision making to, hopefully, produce a positive patient outcome with debriefing to follow. The distinct benefits to nursing education that simulation brings to the table is allowing students to learn assessment techniques and clinical skills in a “controlled environment,” begin to develop clinical decision making and prioritization skills; and start to become familiar with the equipment used in real life for patients/families in a safe environment before real life.

Simulation can and should be integrated throughout all nursing education courses. It is not a luxury add-on item anymore. It is a must and research has shown the importance and necessity. Ideas for incorporation is end of life care, SBAR reporting, nurse incivility, shift reports, risk assessment, codes, mass casualty events, vaccinations, laboring patient and many more.

For example, nursing students learn in the classroom end of life care, the complexity of cultural awareness, how to care for a dying patient and interact with family members and lastly how to process their own emotions in the event their patient dies. However, this is a rare clinical experience to participate in as a student and a perfect opportunity to bridge the theory-practice gap. Another key area is SBAR reporting to a physician or other department. This skill is nerve-wracking for a new nurse with the potential of a negative outcome if not done efficiently and correctly. This skill is one we know a student will never get to actively complete solo in clinical and simulation is another chance to bridge that gap and better prepare our students for real life nursing.

The use of virtual reality for nursing students

Virtual reality, to me, makes me think about video games and it makes my head spin to think about how or why I would incorporate virtual reality into nursing education. But virtual reality is not a video game, it is access to a 3D world that replicates healthcare environments, procedures and real-life scenarios used to augment nursing education. It is a single-person, active learning activity that when used in conjunction with didactic material has been proven to be very beneficial. It should never be utilized as a stand-alone tool but is a tool to be utilized to enhance learning. Unlike simulation, virtual reality cannot and should not be utilized as a replacement for clinical.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not new to healthcare, but becoming more necessary

AI is not new in healthcare and is growing at warp speeds. AI is used in population health, optimizing plan of care, early detection, recognizing health care trends and data. What nursing education needs to incorporate is preparing nurses to be adaptable and welcoming to changes in the constant evolving of the healthcare landscape. Educators will need to educate student nurses on how to best interact and be involved with the healthcare transformation. This means educating ourselves by not shying away from the advancements but embracing the evolution and addition of technology to the daily nursing grind. With the advancement of technology comes the need for more education. New nurses are going to have to be proficient in information technology to be successful, and because they will have to be proficient in it, nurse educators will also need to be proficient in it. There are technology fellowships, podcasts, webinars, and certifications out there to be obtained to help bridge the gap for educators.

Heather Swift, MSN, RN
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education

Missed parts 1 and 2 of evolving nursing trends? Read them now:

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