November 11, 2016
Simulation as a teaching methodology prepares nurses and other medical professionals for practice in today’s complex healthcare environment. By creating a rich setting that poses no risk to patients, virtual simulation helps nursing students integrate theory with practice while making real-time clinical decisions in a safe environment. While there are many benefits, teaching with virtual simulation has been met with some resistance. Here are our responses to some of the most common objections about teaching with virtual simulation.
Virtual simulation is too expensive. Virtual simulation is more than a fun game for students. According to the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, there are significant benefits of simulated learning — such as the ability to schedule convenient learning opportunities that can be repeated as often as necessary — that makes it an integral cost of any educational program. Just think of virtual simulation as less than or equivalent to the cost of a textbook.
I don’t have time to learn something new. Along with perceived high cost, learning a new teaching methodology involves an upfront time investment from faculty. Combined with the fear of new technology, faculty may be hesitant to dive into the learning process. For schools without simulation labs or coordinators, faculty must take on the task of learning how to use virtual simulation. To make this learning curve as easy and seamless as possible, virtual simulation providers often supply reference tools and starter guides, along with technical support to troubleshoot any issues or answer questions faculty may have along the way. Some virtual simulation packages, like Sentinel City™ Community Health Simulation, come with pre-written assignments and grading rubrics to make creating and implementing assignments easy for faculty.
Virtual simulation is another step removed from the bedside. While the nursing education model used to take place strictly at the bedside, working on the floor while in nursing school is no longer a scalable teaching method. As nursing education moved from hospitals to an academic setting, students began traveling to clinicals. While virtual simulation isn’t designed to replace the clinical setting, it can be used to create a rich experience that supplements classroom education in a more engaging way than sitting through a lecture. It’s also more convenient for students, as virtual simulation is available 24 hours a day from anywhere of their choosing.
There’s no replacement for hands-on patient care. When it comes to teaching with virtual simulation, one of biggest hurdles is that nurses feel there is no replacement for hands-on patient care. The goal of virtual simulation isn’t to replace clinical practice hours; it’s to enhance education before healthcare providers even arrive in a patient care setting. Post-licensure, virtual simulation can also be used as a convenient and effective tool for continuing education.
It’s just a simulation. If students aren’t familiar with the virtual setting, they may have a hard time suspending reality. While virtual simulation is just that, a simulation, students can experience diverse community settings by gaining exposure to challenges they may not have in an actual hospital or their community setting. This provides a much broader and safer view than going out into the community. Appropriate classroom prep and debriefing discussions can enable students to easily learn to associate virtual experiences with what they would see in real life. When theories are tied into the students’ own communities, virtual simulation can be used as a tool to help students develop critical thinking and awareness.
When it comes to creating meaningful and effective learning opportunities for nurses, virtual simulation can be a cost-effective and powerful learning tool to prepare students for the rigors of patient care in the community setting and beyond.
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