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Benefits of Virtual Reality and Simulation in Nurse Education

Simulation is not a new concept in nursing education. Academic settings and organizations have been using a skills lab approach to teach fundamental and advanced competency for years. However, technological advances allow a more realistic scenario instead of "just pretending" on a mannequin that does not interact.

Today, high fidelity simulators that breathe with breath sounds, heart tones and palpable pulses are available. Simulation and three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) create situations that replicate real-life situations, with feedback and debriefing to promote learning.

Nursing schools and healthcare organizations are preparing the industry workforce with various simulation strategies. In fact, the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) Healthcare network of over 2,000 sites nationwide is investing in several regional simulation centers to support workforce development and continued learning opportunities for nurses and nurse residents.   

One such location is The North Texas HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement (HHCCA) 37,000 square-foot simulation center, which supports over 7,000 Medical City Healthcare nurses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Each facility includes several classrooms, simulation beds, conference and debriefing rooms. Control rooms allow educators to observe learners as they perform a new skill or refresh existing skills.

5 Benefits of Educational Technology

Technology allows learning anytime, anywhere to benefit both educators and learners. Below are a few of the advantages of technology's innovative uses, primarily related to nursing education.

  1. Safety. Simulation allows learners to practice skills and improve critical thinking without any risk to a patient. Some situations, such as a neutropenic fever or a rapid response code, leave no room for error without significant patient harm. Technology can recreate high-risk, complex situations that nurses may encounter in clinical practice, which better prepares them to handle real-world problems. Many studies show that simulation can improve patient safety and teamwork.
  2. Individualization. Both students and nursing professionals have different levels of clinical knowledge and practical experience. Simulation can educate any audience participant, from novice to expert, and tier education so that once nurses master a beginner activity, they proceed to a more advanced exercise. Activities may focus on cognitive (critical thinking), affective (feelings, attitudes) and psychomotor skills. Simulations can also help improve communication among nurses, patients, nurse-providers and multidisciplinary teams.   
  3. Fill-in-gaps. Technology can expose learners to scenarios they might not encounter in clinical practice to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Simulation situations can also help nurses practice cultural sensitivity and undergo diversity training through a broader range of scenarios and application of ethical principles. Preparing students for real scenarios is crucial, as there is a nationwide demand for nursing educators and new hires — especially now that many facilities are suspending student clinical placement or using all available nursing resources due to the pandemic.
  4. Engagement. Advanced technology allows for more creative, interactive, engaging instruction. Imagine using an escape room simulation to learn about emergency airways or infection prevention. Think about how captivating it is to study chemotherapy side effects by competing in an online Jeopardy game. Nurse educators can create various interactive digital learning activities from multiple templates or pre-built customizable clinical scenarios.
  5. Standardization. Simulation helps provide consistent, standardized education with learner expectations. It allows both individual learners and educators to monitor progress and identify strengths and weaknesses for a more tailored approach. Standardized education is vital for large healthcare organizations with multiple locations to ensure consistency and better measure patient outcomes, quality and overall customer satisfaction.

Advances in medicine, coupled with an aging population's complex needs, require educators to focus on more practical, clinically relevant, problem-based learning. Most new graduate nurses are of Generation Z who grew up with the Internet. For them, technology is not a tool as much as it is a part of life. Many have come to expect self-paced, self-directed and independent educational activities. Nurse educators must commit to learning, understanding and incorporating new technology in their nursing education.

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington's online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education program


Sources:

HealthTech: How VR Simulation Training is Set to Change Nursing Education

Medical City Healthcare: HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement

Clinical Simulation in Nursing: The Value of Simulation in Health Care: The Obvious, the Tangential, and the Obscure

Nursology: From Novice to Expert

The Academy of Professional Development: Pros and Cons of Simulation in Healthcare

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN's Vision for Academic Nursing


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