Recruiting simulated patients

Case study: Recruiting nursing students as simulated patients

The use of Simulated Patients (SPs) to portray a patient scenario with the aim of providing nursing students realistic clinical experiences followed by feedback has been well documented.

At our regional campus in Mildura we have a wonderful group of SPs who regularly assist us with Simulations for the undergraduate nurses.

During Semester 2 last year, an SP simulation was planned for the first year students. However it turned out that none of our regular SPs were available.  In desperation I decided to ask the second year students if they would be willing to help me out.

Recruitment occurred via a group email to the second year students and I was overwhelmed with the response. The second year students were very keen to help, and I ended up having a ‘waiting list’ of participants.

The scenario was very simple: During a routine Medical Assessment at a Community Clinic the student nurses are asked by the supervising RN to complete a Subjective & Objective Respiratory Assessment on a patient.

The intended learning outcomes for this simulation were that by the end of the simulation the student would be able to apply the skills required to collect subjective and objective data whilst undertaking a respiratory assessment on a patient, and to apply formal communication techniques with both patients and members of the health team.

The simulation ran beautifully. The first year students were not aware that their ‘patients’ were actually second year students. The students don’t often cross paths on campus, so for them the SPs were just some young people who were acting in the role.

The first year students were able to practice their respiratory assessments and ISBAR handovers.  During debrief they were provided with some insightful and constructive feedback on their assessment skills and communication techniques. They left for the day, feeling that they had achieved the intended learning outcomes.

 The real surprise was the learning experience that occurred for the second year students.  Firstly, they were surprised at how much knowledge they had. They were able to easily identify strengths in the first year student’s skills and areas in need of improvement. They could then articulate this easily during debrief.  Many of the SPs were excited to realise that they knew the content well enough to be able to provide constructive feedback.

Secondly, it provided the second year students with the ‘patient’ experience.  This was especially timely as they were about to begin their clinical practicum for the semester.  Some of the comments they made in regard to this included ‘I felt powerless, lying in the bed with someone hovering over me, who obviously was not confident with what they were doing’ and ‘I will be making sure when I am on placement that I will be telling my patients exactly what I am doing and why’.

While our experience here is merely anecdotal, I believe that it was worthwhile for both groups, and we will run the simulation again this year using the current first and second year cohorts in the same roles.

Sandy Connor

Nursing Lecturer

LaTrobe Rural Health School

Mildura Campus