Simulation: A Powerful Tool to Support a Quality Learning Environment

May 12, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Ann Marie Mauro

Ann Marie P. Mauro, PhD, RN, CNL, CNE, is a clinical associate professor, fellow with the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, and the program liaison and project director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing scholarship program at the New York University (NYU) College of Nursing, which has made extensive use of simulation. This is part of a series of posts for National Nurses Week, highlighting how nurses are driving quality and innovation in patient care.

For students in the health professions, the beauty of simulation is the ability to apply their critical thinking and assessment skills in a safe environment where they can learn without fear of harming a patient. Sometimes I think people learn much better from their mistakes. While simulation does not completely replace traditional clinical experiences, it is a great teaching strategy to help standardize students’ learning experiences, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

You can achieve targeted learning outcomes for students who have the opportunity to work with patients with specific health concerns. When we take students into a traditional clinical setting, we do not have control over which patients might be available and what students might be able to do. It is getting particularly challenging not only to find clinical sites, because of competition among schools, but to deal with health care organizations that have transitioned to electronic health records and electronic medication administration records, which are difficult for faculty and students to access. Furthermore, it is time-consuming and costly for faculty to be trained on different systems.

In the simulation program at NYU College of Nursing, we have our own systems for electronic health and medication administration records, so that students know how to go through all of the steps, such as scanning a patient’s ID band, and scanning a medication to verify it. This is very helpful on many levels for quality and safety.

While we have a very strong simulation program now, we’re exceedingly excited about expanding and improving that program. Right now, NYU has a new building under construction for the College of Nursing that will include some space for the College of Dentistry and the biomedical engineering program. In addition to classrooms, lecture halls, study space, and offices, we will have a brand new 11,000-square-foot simulation center—three times the amount of simulation space we currently have. The building, scheduled to open in early 2015, will feature nine rooms for medical-surgical simulation, two for psychiatric and community health simulations, a labor and delivery simulation suite, a pediatric simulation lab, and other simulation space.

The new building will enhance our interprofessional education efforts, including NYU3T: Teaching, Technology, Teamwork, which focuses on undergraduates, and the graduate program physical assessment course, which combines learning among graduate nursing, medical, and dental students with a focus on oral health. In the spirit of the 2011 Interprofessional Education Collaborative report, NYU College of Nursing has worked closely with the College of Dentistry and the School of Medicine, and we’re looking to expand into collaborations with other disciplines. We want to increase interprofessional learning opportunities for students at every level, including the doctoral level.

As course coordinator for several undergraduate courses, I work with Kellie Bryant, DNP, WHNP-BC, the director of the Clinical Simulation Learning Center, and other faculty members to develop the simulations. I also chair the committee that has oversight of the curricula in all of the College of Nursing’s programs, so I can see the role of simulation at every level.

I truly believe there is tremendous value in simulation learning. It is a very powerful means of addressing quality and safety education in nursing—those QSEN competencies that we try to achieve for our students. We can standardize students’ learning experiences and really address issues of concern, teaching students how to avoid medication errors, as well as skills needed for cultural competence, therapeutic communication, and the use of technology.

Simulation addresses many outcomes we seek to achieve in nursing education, and I am a strong proponent of its benefits. Simulation at NYU is not a stand-alone experience; it is fully integrated into our curricula and is connected to the concepts we explore in didactic, seminar, and traditional clinical learning environments. We strive to tie everything together for our faculty and the students to maximize their educational experience and to provide a quality learning environment.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.