Today, more than ever before, educators are increasingly employing simulators such as specialized manikins and other technologies to provide students with the opportunity to practice a multiplicity of clinical nursing skills as they complete their education programs (Comer, 2005).
This paper aims to discuss the topic of simulation in nursing by illuminating its purpose, benefits, how it is used to challenge students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills, and why the concept is increasingly becoming popular in nursing programs.
Purpose of Simulation
Simulation has been described in the nursing scholarship as “the art and science of recreating a clinical scenario in an artificial setting” (Hicks, Coke, & Li, 2009, p. 1). While simulation has been discussed differentially by several nursing scholars, its underlying objective seems nested on the provision of experiences that bridge the gap between education and actual practice.
In this respect, the main purpose of simulation is to provide chronological experiences that imitate the clinical environment and hence expose students to repetition, pattern identification, and speedy decision making throughout their educational process (Edgecombe et al., 2013; Jeffries, 2007).
The imitation of the clinical environment not only avails nursing students with the opportunity to refine the knowledge and competencies learned within the nursing program, including decision making and critical thinking skills, but also provides a multiplicity of patient care experiences to students in particular contexts that are either too rare or too risky for them to participate in real-life (Jeffries, 2007).
The benefits of simulation in the clinical education of nursing students far outweigh the risks, and include (1) enhancing and encouraging patient safety and quality health care, (2) enhancing the clinical competence of nursing students, (3) facilitating productivity and efficiency of nursing students in school and clinical settings, and (4) encouraging research leading to improvement in all facets of education related to the practice and profession of nursing (Hicks et al., 2009; Jeffries, 2005; Jeffries, 2007).
Comer (2005) acknowledges that exposing nursing students to simulation bears immense benefits, particularly in terms of developing their cognitive, psychomotor and learning domains and preferences through observing the clinical scenario and role playing. Additionally, the students benefit in terms of developing their verbal and interpersonal communication during pre and post simulation experience and in nurturing their capacity to understand facilitator prompts during the simulation process (Comer, 2005).
Application of Simulation
According to Jeffries (2007), nursing educators can use simulation to challenge students’ problem solving and critical reasoning skills in a specific situation by (1) incorporating knowledge that is related to the degree of complexity of the simulation exercise, (2) making the exercise difficult but achievable, (3) using predetermined cues to help nursing students think critically and solve arising problems during the simulation process, (4) debriefing students immediately after the simulation experience, and (5) providing routine evaluations for both faculty and nursing students.
Additionally, as acknowledged by Hicks et al (2009) and Jeffries (2007), educators using simulation are able to challenge students’ problem solving and critical reasoning skills not only by providing an opportunity for active and collaborative learning, but also through availing feedback, designating specific roles to students, and encouraging self-directed learning.
Why Simulation is Becoming Popular in Nursing Programs
Simulation is becoming more popular in nursing programs not only due to its capacity to provide immense learning benefits to nursing students, but also because of its potential to actively engage students in the process of gaining knowledge through experiential learning (Edgecombe et al., 2013; Jeffries, 2007).
As demonstrated by Jeffries (2007), simulation is increasingly becoming popular in nursing education as it prepares students to synthesize knowledge, integrate evidence, work in collaboration, provide ethical and safe care upon graduation from school, develop problem solving and critical thinking capacities, and reflect on their skills and competencies.
According to Jeffries (2005), research has already demonstrated that nursing students who participate in traditional learning contexts do not perceive as many problem solving and critical thinking characteristics as the students who are proactively engaged in static or high fidelity simulation, and that students engaged in high fidelity simulation demonstrate an elevated satisfaction level with their learning initiatives and are more confident in designing and implementing patient care plans than students in traditional classroom contexts.
Drawing from this discussion, it is evident that simulation will continue to gain currency as a tool that can be used effectively in nursing education to expand students’ knowledge, capabilities and skills, while at the same time ensuring that nursing students graduate with a higher level of productivity and efficiency needed to make a positive change in actual clinical settings.
Comer, S. (2005). Patient care simulations: Role playing to enhance clinical understanding. Nursing Education Perspectives, 26(6), 357-361.
Edgecombe, K., Seaton, P., Monalian, K., Meyer, S., LePage, S., & Erlam, G. (2013). Clinical simulation in nursing: A literature review and guidelines for practice.
Hicks, F.D., Coke, L., & Li, S. (2009). The effects of high-fidelity simulation on nursing student’s knowledge and performance: A pilot study.
Jeffries, P.R. (2005). Designing, implementing, and evaluating simulations used as teaching strategies in nursing. Nursing Education Perspectives, 26(2), 96-103.
Jeffries, P.R. (2007). Simulation in nursing education: From conceptualization to evaluation. New York, NY: National League for Nursing.