In the light of the practice placement limitations due to COVID-19, the Faculty Practice Simulation Group at a University in South West England, commissioned a pilot programme of simulated practice components for 200 second year adult nursing students over five consecutive days. The aim was to support the development of communication skills required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council Standards .
In partnership with an external communication skills organisation, the University provided each student with 37 hours of simulated practice placement, focused on communication skills through participative simulation with simulated patients (SPs) in bespoke, authentic scenarios. This included facilitated participation, structured live feedback from SPs, discussion with students, debriefing and reflection according to ASPiH guidelines for best practice in simulation . Scenarios were designed to challenge and explore the range of skills required in Annex A of the Standards , at a level expected of first year students. Learning outcomes included the development of caring conversation techniques, patient management and colleague communication in multiple, varied situations. Students interacted with SPs and relatives who reflected diverse characteristics and ages, and a range of physical and mental health challenges. Students also interacted with simulated colleagues in a variety of professional situations. 106 students completed feedback questionnaires consisting of 41 5-point Likert items, before and after their sessions.
Facilitators noted that students described the simulation as a meaningful learning opportunity which allowed them to explore and develop their communication skills and better prepared them for the practice element of their degree. They also noted that students said they preferred simulation as it gave them time to stop and think and to get advice and ideas from their colleagues. This was particularly so in ‘breaking bad news’ scenarios as most had never had to approach this and appreciated the opportunity to consider and practise their response. Consequently, students stated that simulation would have been even more beneficial had it been timed prior to attending practice placement. Facilitators observed the improvement in communication skills was in student’s confidence and their awareness and sensitivity, particularly in complex multi-factorial situations. Evaluations for the programme have yet to be analysed.
Experiential learning through simulation-based education with SPs provides a powerful approach, offering a safe and supportive environment, which avoids unsafe situations and enables students to effectively practise and prepare for real world experiences.
1. Nursing and Midwifery Council, Standards of Proficiency for registered nurses. https://www.nmc.org.uk/standards/standards-for-nurses/standards-of-proficiency-for-registered-nurses/ [Accessed on 21/06/2022]
2. Simulation-Based Education in Healthcare. 2016. Standards Framework and Guidance. Association for simulated practice in healthcare (ASPiH) standards for simulation-based education. https://aspih.org.uk/standards-framework-for-sbe/ [Accessed on 21/06/2022]