Virtual Nursing Simulation To Advance Patient Care

Digital solutions have become a critical part of nursing education, especially during the pandemic. Here’s a look at trends that were already driving a shift to virtual nursing simulation, and how and why schools of nursing are incorporating this technology in their curriculum.
As educators adopt virtual educational technologies, nursing instructors are leading the charge—outpacing medical and general education efforts. Perhaps it’s because the use of virtual nursing simulation isn’t new. Virtual nursing simulation has been proven effective, and 65% of nursing education programs were already using the technology to prepare nurses to deliver hands-on patient care.

In this post, we explore why nursing educators have embraced digital technologies, when it’s most effective, and how schools of nursing are successfully implementing virtual simulation in their curriculum.

When Is It Advantageous to Use Virtual Nursing Simulation?

In some cases, virtual nursing simulation may actually be more effective than a more traditional model. For example, when learning behavioral health screening techniques or patient communication strategies, virtual patients can be advantageous over hired actors or standardized patients, because:

  • The use of virtual humans in these scenarios can more accurately and consistently replicate patient behavior, which prepares nurses for real-life scenarios they will face in their career.
  • Role-playing with virtual humans decreases the likelihood of negative transference reactions or the student feeling embarrassed or judged which often happens in live role-plays, especially in the presence of peers.
  • Virtual humans are coded to support high fidelity of the learning experience. This includes consistent delivery of accurate knowledge, realistic and engaging role-plays, and appropriate feedback.
  • Research has demonstrated that skills acquisition and mastery is most likely to occur when active learning strategies are used.
  • Virtual nursing simulations can give continuous, specific feedback to individual students—which is especially advantageous when instructors can’t oversee all students’ conversations.

Virtual nursing simulation is engaging and effective. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has long affirmed that simulations could support up to half of clinical educational experiences—a viewpoint shared by the National League for Nursing.

Why Schools of Nursing Are Embracing Digital Technologies

Two-thirds of survey respondents said that nursing education shifted online as a result of the pandemic. But the use of virtual nursing simulation was gaining popularity before it became necessary due to safety concerns. This shift coincides with two trends: the growth of patient-centered care, and the integration of behavioral health in the primary care setting. These trends are driving the skills that healthcare employers seek when hiring new nursing staff.

Patient-Centered Care & the Need for Patient Communication Skills

According to the American Journal of Medicine, 86% of care time that a patient experiences is from a nurse. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act put an emphasis on improved primary care. Reimbursement is now often linked to patient satisfaction, for example via HCAHP surveys.  Reducing costs is driving the push for more curriculum and training surrounding patient communication.

Patient-centered communication skills have been proven to help with patient satisfaction, treatment adherence, and self-management—and these essential skills can be effectively taught using virtual nursing simulation.

“Nurses are consistently the most highly trusted professionals in our country. That puts us in a unique position to be able to initiate conversations and to monitor and provide prevention.”
-Stephen Strobbe, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, CARN-AP, FIAAN, FAAN, Clinical Professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing

Behavior Health Integration & SBIRT Training

Behavioral health is becoming more integrated into the primary care setting—especially as health professionals work to combat the mental effects of COVID-19—and nurses need to learn effective techniques such as screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (known as SBIRT).

A national survey revealed that 57% of healthcare practitioners don’t feel adequately prepared to screen patients for substance use or mental health disorders, or to provide their patients with information about the impact of substance use and mental health. This is concerning, especially given the current climate. During late June 2020, the CDC found that 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use, a significant increase from months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As schools of nursing prepare students to enter the field, incorporating behavioral health screening techniques such as SBIRT is more important than ever.

How Schools of Nursing Are Successfully Using Virtual Nursing Simulation

We know virtual nursing simulation can be very effective, especially in practicing communication skills and screening techniques, but how are schools of nursing incorporating it in their existing curriculum?

Here are a couple of examples of schools of nursing that have successfully adopted one of Kognito’s healthcare simulations, SBI with Adolescents:

  • Saint Louis University School of Nursing adopted Kognito’s online interactive simulation to prepare its undergraduate nursing students to effectively screen and engage in brief intervention conversations with patients. Read the case study here.
  • University of Michigan Nursing School has measured improvement in overall student competence, confidence, and readiness to deliver SBIRT as a result of implementing Kognito’s SBI with Adolescents. Read the case study here.

Kognito’s Simulation Offerings for Nursing Students

With Kognito simulations, schools of nursing are equipping students with the skills to increase patient engagement and improve health outcomes. These practice-based simulations fit into your clinical curriculum and cover important topics including:

  • Behavioral health – suicide risk, alcohol misuse, and opioid use disorder
  • Interpersonal & therapeutic communication skills – patient-centered communication and motivational interviewing
  • Telehealth best practices – coming in October!

If you want to learn more about how Kognito can help you supplement core curriculum, support distance learning, and make up lost clinical hours with realistic learning in a risk-free environment, learn more here.

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