February 14, 2011

Study to evaluate if ‘dummy’ education is smart for nurses

How can patient simulators—high-tech manikins that respond to a nurse’s care—help prepare the nurses of tomorrow? The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is among 10 nursing schools nationwide collaborating on a landmark study to find out just how smart this “dummy” education can be.

“Nursing students have been learning their clinical skills the same way for more than 40 years, but the health care environment has changed,” said Pamela Jeffries, associate dean for academic affairs. “The patients have changed, their acuity has changed, the knowledge required of our nurses has changed, so the way we educate nurses has to change, too.”

Schools have been experimenting with patient simulations for several years, but their effectiveness has been evaluated with only a handful of small studies. This simulation study, conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, seeks to change that.

Researchers at 10 nursing schools will follow more than 1,000 students throughout their education and into the first year of their careers to discover how using simulations in learning affects performance in the workplace after graduation. Incoming students at the study schools, including Johns Hopkins, may choose to begin participating in the study starting this fall.

“Using simulations allows nursing students to step into the role of a full-fledged nurse for a time,” Jeffries said. “When they are with the manikin, they have to make decisions without advice from a teacher or experienced nurse. They can make mistakes and learn from them without the fear of harming a patient. I think simulations will be a key component in educating our future nurses, and this study will give us the data we need to provide the best education possible.”