Learning through simulation Students benefit from practising skills in a safe environment, write Liz Berragan, Heather Short and Eirlys Grindrod An important element of nursing students’ learning experience is the way they gain confidence and competence in delivering care to patients and service users. As with many universities, at the University of the West of England some of these skills are taught through simulation exercises. This involves working in a simulation suite that mimics the reality of a hospital ward or an individual’s home. Students learn how to manage nursing care in a safe environment.


Simulation enables the educator to encourage students to develop and demonstrate self-motivation and direction. During the debrief that follows the simulation exercise, students can make sense of their own and other students’ learning experiences and consider the real situation on a ward or in a patient’s home. Experiential learning during simulation can improve performance and is a way of integrating theory and practice.

To take your simulation learning into a clinical situation during practice placements you should undertake the following: Map your simulation learning to the learning outcomes of your clinical placement. Use this to develop your learning contract and action plan for your next placement. Discuss your learning with your mentor, highlighting areas where you might need more support. Learning through simulation complements practice learning. It offers a controlled environment in which nursing students can develop critical thinking skills and build self-confidence. Students who immerse themselves and use the experience to improve their own learning, as well as assisting others, are positive about the learning that simulation can provide NS Liz Berragan, Heather Short and Eirlys Grindrod are senior lecturers in the department of nursing and midwifery at the University of the West of England


Making the most of experiential learning Prepare for the simulation session by reading around the subject and any instructions you are given. If required to a wear uniform, comply with the dress code in relation to footwear, hairstyle and jewellery. Listen to instructions and ask questions if you are unsure about anything. Suspend your disbelief. The more you immerse yourself in the simulation, the more you will get out of it. Situations that challenge adherence to a procedure or process can be discussed during the debrief. If your practice is considered to be unsafe during the simulation, the procedure may be suspended and discussed in the debrief. Be honest during the debrief.

THINKING BEYOND THE OBVIOUS Throughout the nursing student’s professional career, the term critical thinking will be used. Critical thinking is thinking beyond the obvious. It becomes more complex as you develop skills in integrating textbook information and clinical experiences. How do students turn their classroom learning into critical thinking in the clinical environment? On each placement consider how experienced nurses make complex decisions and demonstrate critical thinking. Ask about: The breakdown of their thought processes. The meaning of their actions, their assumptions and conclusions, and the alternatives they considered. The evidence for their conclusions. Consequences of this particular clinical action. Any omitted but relevant information that could have informed the clinical action. Remember, critical thinking will become more intuitive as your career develops. The benefits of having a good critical thinker in clinical practice affect the student, the team and the patient NS Patricia Hunt is lecturer practitioner in palliative care at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

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