Simulation has become an integral part of teaching and learning pedagogy within the Health Faculty at UON. In order to operationalise the faculty’s simulation strategy, a lead for simulation was recruited in September 2022. Roshini Khatri, Head of Health Professions, explains why:
“Simulation is used regularly in Healthcare as a learning and teaching technique to create situations or environments to allow persons/students to experience a demonstration of real-life scenarios for the purpose of practice and learning in a safe and nurturing environment. We have chosen to embed simulation as part of our curriculum to ensure that we are using contemporary and innovative activities to support the healthcare professionals of the future.”
The new Academic Lead for Simulation, Kate Ewing, is passionate about how the use of simulation and virtual reality scenarios can create more immersive, engaging, and more productive learning outcomes. Kate explains that simulation ranges from a technical skill, for example, where students might be learning to catheterise, to a more immersive scenario which is designed to give students the opportunity, in a safe and controlled environment, to experience a clinical situation.
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The challenge Kate has, is scenarios need to be written and carefully constructed with learning outcomes at the forefront. Kate admits this can create a ‘heavy workload’ for academic staff, so her aim is to see how these scenarios can be utilised across programmes so they fulfil a range of learning outcomes; allowing students to work inter-professionally with each other, rather than having a single use.
Kate is aware of the limitations of this technology when utilised by small groups or individuals at a time. However, Kate’s strategy provides a “shift in thinking” which encompasses all of the students in the learning process. In her learning situations, the students become observers of the process taking place. Kate comments: “Evidence says, if you debrief the situation and the learning in the right way, observers gain as much as the participants. The simulation is seen as an excuse for a debrief – the debrief is where the rich learning takes place”.
Kate highlights how simulations in a learning environment are very different to clinical settings. “Students aren’t just testing out their skills, as they might do in a clinical environment, rather, they are developing skills of communication and those human factors which require a more intricate debrief strategy”. Although Virtual Reality (VR) scenarios contain published debriefs, Kate feels strongly these need customising so they can be mapped closely to the learning outcomes of individual programmes at UON.
Hannah Cannon, Practice Lead for Nursing Associates, has been working with students on their clinical skills using a VR platform in a whole class situation. Hannah said that in her experience, students seem to feel “really safe” when engaging with scenarios in this way. Her students can play through a scenario safely without the need to worry about the consequences of their decisionmaking. Hannah believes by having a group of students present, it allows for a more productive and wider discussion about patient care. As a team, the students can work together to make decisions about the patient’s treatment.
Hannah emphasises how the use of a debrief, which is usually twice as long as the scenario, permits her students to have more effective discussions about the scenario and to reflect on their decision-making. Hannah feels this style of immersive learning allows her students to better grasp their learning outcomes by having the opportunities to see their decision-making play out and then by reflecting on the end result. She goes on to say that it, “heightens student’s self-awareness both professionally and personally,” which she feels is fundamental in nursing care.
Although immersive and engaging, Kate understands simulations are not an “easy answer” to fulfilling learning outcomes at UON due to their time-consuming nature. But Kate is passionate that, through her role, she will be able to help create a strategy that supports staff to not only fulfill learning outcomes in a more productive way within their own programme, but to enable collaborative scenario-based learning to be adopted across programmes in a more cohesive and versatile way.
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