Virtual Simulation-the brave new world of education

This week I am participating in an International Conference on Technology in Healthcare sponsored by Rutgers University.  The innovative and creative new systems are amazing.  I have seen small hand held devices that systematically report patient medical record items to you via voice control and then record your clinical notes and documentation from a series of voice prompts that auto-load into a documentation template.  Very cool and what a time saver.  I also saw the use of smart phones for polling and quizzing students in class and presentations.  My friend Betty and I liked this technology so much that we added some sample polls to our presentation for the conference.  We also learned about the important simulation study being conducted nationally by the NLN.  They doing a multi-phase study of the impact of clinical simulation on nursing student performance both on the NCLEX exam and on the performance of graduate nurses.  They are studying schools that are replacing up to 50% of clinical time with case simulations using high fidelity simulators.  Betty and I presented another option for simulation and that is the use of unfolding case studies that are interactive and create virtual simulations.  Some virtual simulations are animations and others are videos using live actors.  After watching a short video, the student is asked a question and depending on how they respond, the program takes them to the next step in the case.  This is called branching logic and it follows the clincal reasoning and clinical judgement  that students apply to the case.  I do not believe that simulations can ever fully replace real life clinical encounters or faculty based learning.  Simulation does however offer a wonderful opportunity for students to participate in rare clinical events, to avoid placing patients at risk, and allow for a safe practice and learning experience.  A great new educational world is unfolding.  Jump in !

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