Preparing Future PNPs to Address Substance Use in Adolescent Care: A Q&A

HealthcarePediatric CareProvider Communication SkillsSubstance Use
Adaorah Azotam
Adaorah Azotam, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC

This post is the second in a series showcasing colleges and universities who are incorporating Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) training into their schools of health curriculum thanks to the unique partnership between Kognito and NORC at the University of Chicago.

You can read the first post of the series here: Incorporating SBIRT in Social Work Curriculum: A Q&A.

Today we’re sharing excerpts from our discussion with Adaorah Azotam, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC. Dr. Azotam is an assistant professor and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) track coordinator at the Texas Woman’s University College of Nursing. Her areas of expertise range from pediatric/adolescent health and pediatric emergency medicine to child abuse and neglect, community health, and more. She’s also an expert in best practices for online learning and evidence-based clinical practice, and brings a valuable perspective on the use of role-play simulation in health curriculum.

Background: How Texas Woman’s University incorporates online simulation into its nursing curriculum

Students in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) track at Texas Woman’s University are assigned the SBI with Adolescents simulation (part of Kognito’s Behavioral Health suite) when covering the topic of substance use. The simulation is followed by lecture and discussion about substance use and screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment (SBIRT) protocols.

The virtual simulation and in-class discussion ultimately prepare students for a recorded clinical encounter with a standardized patient at risk of a substance use disorder.

Q&A with Dr. Azotam, professor and PNP track coordinator

What value do you see in the simulation for your students?

I wish I had something like this when I was in school! The biggest thing I really enjoyed about [the simulation] was that it bridges the gaps in clinical practice, which I think is pretty much the goal that you’re looking for in terms of using this technology — not only for our students, but providers as well.

There’s not that many pediatric-led health simulations in terms of it being a vulnerable population. The big topics such as mental health tend to be more adult-focused or geriatric-focused … sometimes pediatrics is left out.

How do you extend the simulation content into further clinical practice?

We actually made a clinical scenario where the student had to have an interview with an adolescent [standardized patient]. They had to come up with referral and treatment and anticipatory guidance. It was recorded, so they could look at their video afterward and see how they did. Then we had them write up their evaluation of the encounter as a self-reflection.

They [the students] felt that it was great practice for real world scenarios because they would rather be uncomfortable in a simulated experience versus for the first time encountering it with a real patient.

I think that was the best part of it was actually doing these different active learning strategies, learning on your own, having a guide through the online program module, and then applying it and then re-evaluating based on everything that you learned.

Did you notice any differences for students who actually had the virtual self-directed practice through the simulation versus students who didn’t?

Absolutely. Sometimes the fear of the unknown is very, very difficult. But when you have standardized guidance or standardized learning that you can either refer to, or the experience itself has kind of embedded in your brain outside of just reading from the textbook or listening to me talk to you for five hours, I find that those students feel like they are better prepared

I think the preparation is very, very appreciated by the students. I think also from the provider side, it’s a great tool for refreshers, especially when you’re starting to see that there’s different trends, especially with mental health, substance use, sexual health, LGBTQ topics, etc. They’re things that we’re supposed to know, but if you have not dealt with that topic area in a while, you don’t have a refresher that makes you feel comfortable enough to apply it to a real world situation.

How has your experience with the simulation been?

I think it’s so awesome that these social-stigma type conversations are happening, and that there is actually a standardized format that can be utilized that has evidence-based resources. It streamlines the objectives and competencies very, very clearly. And in my experience, I feel that’s really important because not all simulations actually achieve the objectives that are set.

As somebody who’s licensed and certified, I have to do all types of online modules all the time. And sometimes, we just click, click, click, get to the end and take the test and then move on. I feel like that’s not really continuing education; that’s just checking off that annual refresher kind of thing. The fact that [the Kognito simulation] is so robust and realistic is the biggest thing that I enjoyed within my experience so far.

Would you recommend the simulation to other nurse practitioner programs?

Absolutely. Especially after last year’s experience. I had a smaller cohort, so they were very good about giving their feedback and being very honest. At the end of the program, they said that this was one of the experiences that they really, really enjoyed, because it got them out of their comfort zone, and also gave them tools to feel like it was a strength, not a weakness anymore.

Experience an adolescent SBIRT simulation

Want to experience the impact of hands-on practice leading important patient encounters? Take an interactive demoof one of Kognito’s simulations.

The SBIRT simulations were made possible thanks to our partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago. Learn more about the partnership here.