How Effective is Simulation Education?

Educators have long known that active learning is far more effective than passive learning. Take simulation education, for instance. The “hands-on” act of patient care for the student nurse is invaluable. Participating in assessment and diagnosis is a powerful way for students to apply what they’ve learned while not putting any patients at risk before the student is prepared. Far more exciting than the passive act of slide presentations!

While traditional classroom learning has it’s worth, simulation education is being seen more often in medical colleges and provides an effective way for students to make real and decisions applying the education they learned in the classroom. Simulation education in nursing programs complements classroom learning. Sim Lab provides another way in which nurses graduate with confidence in their ability to provide high quality patient care.

 Simulation Education as Part of Curriculum 

Although nursing programs vary from school to school and state to state, in many of the schools a fair portion of the curriculum includes simulation education. For schools with a 4 semester program, that typically spans 8 terms, each student will have a minimum of 1 simulation experience per term. By the end of the program students will have experienced a minimum of 12-14 simulation labs. These sim labs cover triage, adult health, home health, health education, pediatrics, obstetrics, and mental health.

The complexity of simulation education advances along with the curriculum. Initially simulation education labs will focus mainly on skills application; taking the skills students have amassed through classroom learning and applying those skills to such tasks as physical assessment and patient safety.

As the students move forward in the nursing program they will use the simulation education lab to care for patients with more complex medical needs. For example a nursing student may be presented with a patient who is in labor and will need to assess both the fetal health and the health of the mother, and apply what they have learned in every possible scenario involved. Those students in the simulation education lab may be assigned a patient who is an elderly woman, on oxygen, exhibiting renal failure and symptoms of a heart attack. These scenarios are designed to call on many different skills taught in the nursing program, all at one time, in an effort to prepare the students for real-life situations encountered in clinicals and their future careers.

Simulation Education in a Clinical Environment

Simulation education labs are set up in an environment that mimics a hospital setting. Patients are assigned rooms, given meds, and vitals are taken. There are blood draws and central lines and IVs. When the curriculum includes sim lab the students are immersed in life-like conditions found in busy clinical settings. Reports are written and patient care is observed by nurse educators who have an opportunity to constructively critique and evaluate the students progress.

Opportunities to Review

Unlike in a real life clinical setting, when mistakes are made the patient doesn’t suffer. However these mistakes make for great teachable moments. Recognizing this opportunity, many of the nursing programs that provide simulation education record the nurses activity surrounding their practice of patient care. The tapes are then reviewed one on one, or by the team of students, and possibly others in the sim lab class. This allows the students to understand what happened, how classroom knowledge was applied, where they need to brush up on their nursing skills, and gives the nurse educator an opportunity to advise the students.

Simulation Education Creates Better Outcomes

The desired achievement  in any nursing education program is a nurse who is not only bright and qualified, but one who feels confident and ready to handle real life patient care. Simulation education provides a positive experience. Through active and participatory learning nursing students are able to build their knowledge, apply and hone their sills, and become confident in their abilities. 

Simulation education allows nursing students to foster their clinical judgement and critical thinking. Nursing students in simulation education lab are free from the stress and worry of feeling unprepared for real life patient care. They are allowed to intervene without fear of doing harm to an individual or experiencing dire consequences. The certain amount of freedom to practice nursing in a simulation education lab can only produce more qualified nurses, and that is a very positive prognosis.

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