A common theme that is emerging among many international nursing conferences is no longer whether the use of simulation for specific task training is more effective than existing traditional training methods, but is now, how and where simulation can be integrated into nursing curricula to better prepare future generations of nurses for the challenges of the workplace.

Speaking at a recent Nursing Conference at Birmingham City University in the UK, Professor Carolyn Cason, Nursing and Associate Dean for Research at Arlington School of Nursing, stated, “Our goal is to move half of our practice hours into simulation.”

A shared ambition

Their goal echoes many other Nursing schools’ ambitions to embed simulation in varying degrees into nurse training, but to create such an educational framework requires more than just an understanding of how a patient simulator works. Arlington School of Nursing has long been experienced with simulation, and as such, offers valuable insights into the process of its integration into the teaching process, in areas where it can most benefit students’ learning.

The UTA School of Nursing, located in the heart of Dallas, is attached to the Smart Hospital, a 13,000 sq ft simulated hospital environment, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and furnishings. In this facility, nursing students interact with and provide care to a full array of simulated patients who occupy an Emergency Room, ICU, Labor and Delivery (LDRP) suites, pediatric unit, Neonatal ICU, adult medical / surgical beds and a large team training resuscitation room. Utilizing simulation technology, (including full body interactive patient simulators, such as SimMan and SimBaby, computerized scenario-based programs as well as basic manikins and skills trainers), the school offers the full breadth of degree options: BSN, RN-BSN, MSN, Post-MSN and PhD. The University is part of the University of Texas system and has emerged as a comprehensive education and research institution.

Setting the wheels in motion

The integration of simulation into the nursing curriculum began with a mandate from the Dean of the School, Elizabeth Poster, PhD, stating that all clinical courses should have at least some simulation component. Faculty members began the process by writing scenarios where compatible to curriculum requirements and running them ‘on the fly’ with both SimMan and SimBaby patient simulators. A close working relationship with Laerdal yielded greater success in creating new scenarios as well as making use of and modifying pre-packaged ones.

A dedicated team to drive it forward

However, full integration was going to require steering from a dedicated team bringing together ‘curriculum’ and ‘simulation’ expertise for greater success. This ‘Simulation Resource Team (SRT) proposed by Professor Casson, consists of a ‘Champion in Simulation’ (Simulation Coordinator, Mindi Anderson, PhD) and a ‘Champion in Curriculum’ (Mary Lou Bond, PhD) with additional input from Professor Casson herself, and the Director of the Smart Hospital, Tiffany Holmes, D.C.

The team’s goal is to help faculty members improve their written scenarios and also to assist them in utilizing the National League for Nursing (NLN) Simulation in Nursing Scenarios, thereby ensuring a consistent and standard delivery of training.

Structuring courses

The SRT team is now beginning to work with the structure of the ‘Nursing of Adults Medical Surgical Course’. Again, bringing together the right mix of expertise, by including the Lead Teacher, course faculty, staff of the Smart Hospital to work alongside the SRT team, insights into the process of curriculum integration are being gained and will determine future direction and scope for other courses.

Tiffany Holmes claims this collaborative effort is expected to “be a huge step towards better utilization of simulation and the Laerdal products currently being used.”

UTA is recognized for leading the way in advancing champions and bringing the integration process together.