Blog #InnovationMonth – A Journey through Simulation in Nursing Education

20 May 2024

Welcome to our exclusive blog post, part of the Council of Deans of Health’s Innovation Month, where we dive into groundbreaking research conducted by a team of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Social Care. Dr. Mary Edmonds, Professor Catherine Meads, Dr. Naim Abdulmohdi, Dr. Louise Prothero, and Dr. Siân Shaw are the team behind a four-phase research project commissioned by the Council of Deans of Health, focusing on “Simulation in Nursing Education: An Evidence Base for the Future.” 

Let us take you through our project journey, where simulation-based education (SBE) has emerged as a cornerstone of innovative pedagogy. Through a systematic review and insightful studies of SBE, we examined its efficacy, challenges, and implications for the future of nursing education.

Phase 1: Establishing the Evidence Base
Our journey commenced with a rigorous systematic review to compare the effectiveness of SBE against traditional clinical teaching methods among undergraduate nurses. Findings revealed that SBE not only complements but often surpasses clinical teaching in fostering clinical knowledge and skills acquisition. This evidence base set the foundation to explore the practicalities of SBE implementation. 

Phase 2: Navigating Challenges and Opportunities
As we navigated the landscape of SBE implementation, we encountered challenges intertwined with opportunities. A study spanning 60 UK universities shed light on the complexities of organisational readiness and the prevailing underutilisation of simulation resources. Despite these challenges, SBE offers a pathway to address critical issues such as clinical placement capacity and student engagement. Strategic planning, coupled with staff development initiatives, is crucial to harness the full potential of SBE. 

Phase 3: Embracing Simulated Practice Learning
Through a case study with students and practice supervisors, we gleaned insights into the value of simulated practice learning (SPL) in nursing education. This qualitative research highlighted that academic supervisors are continuously learning to navigate the nuances of SPL, while students benefit from cultivating essential skills in a simulated yet authentic environment. These experiences underscored the pivotal role of SPL in shaping the future nursing workforce, fostering confidence and proficiency among students. 

Phase 4: Paving the Path Forward
Finally, we reflect on the invaluable lessons learnt from an exploration of SPL across UK universities employing a diverse range of innovative modalities. Focus group discussions with Council members identified the motivations and challenges facing universities in embedding SPL into pre-registration nursing programmes. It becomes evident that SPL offers a myriad of learning opportunities, heralding a paradigm shift in nursing education. 

Charting the Future
In the dynamic world of healthcare, evolution is not just a desire but a necessity. Nurse education stands at the forefront of this transformation, with this research shedding light on SBE’s potential to reshape standards and practices. Unveiling findings on national organisational readiness for SBE and SPL unlocks exciting new insights. Empowered by these revelations, nurse educators are exploring opportunities to reshape curricula, refine teaching techniques, and enrich the learning journey for aspiring nurses. But this adventure extends its invitation beyond nursing; allied health and midwifery professionals are encouraged to join the conversation and discover how simulation can enrich healthcare education across the board. As we engage with regulatory bodies and healthcare leaders, there’s a tantalising prospect: the shaping of policy decisions by evidence. This potential propels innovative educational strategies like SBE and SPL to the forefront of nursing education. These evidence-based insights from longitudinal studies on SBE have the potential to transcend policy and promote workforce development, potentially supporting improvements in patient care. Simulation bridges theory and practice, ensuring that nursing education develops hand in hand with the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. We look forward to keeping this momentum going and collaborating on next steps, supporting innovative solutions, and forging a brighter future for nursing education. 

Dr Siân Shaw,  Associate Professor of Digital Innovation in Nursing, Anglia Ruskin University 

A policy update from the Council of Deans of Health:
Following the publication of the report in January 2024, we have presented the key findings and facilitated discussions about its potential implications and next steps with members and key stakeholders. The report has received exceptional feedback, with members welcoming an evidence base that captures their experience and challenges with adopting and delivering simulated practice learning (SPL), whilst also highlighting its transformative potential for programme delivery.  

Next steps 
To strengthen the evidence base for the benefits of SPL for the student learning journey and experience further, there is a need to develop a standardised evaluation tool for SPL across universities. This will help to drive quality improvement and ensure SLP is cost effective. Improving the equitability of access to SPL opportunities through long-term and consistent funding commitments across the four UK nations is a key priority. To scale up effectively, healthcare faculties also need to secure the buy in of university leadership. This can be supported through demonstrating the role of simulation in student and staff development and in future proofing the workforce with the skills to work with the digital and technological innovations increasingly becoming embedded in healthcare. Alongside funding and institutional support, regulatory frameworks should offer universities the flexibility needed to foster innovation in programme delivery.  

These next steps require collaboration between universities, practice partners, stakeholders, professional, statutory, and regulatory bodies and systems to tackle these challenges collectively and avoid duplicative efforts. There are system wide opportunities to build multi-professional networks, share learning and resources, showcase innovative work, and collaborate around SPL. The Council of Deans of Health aims to help facilitate these opportunities and is currently establishing a Simulation Reference Group to provide a forum for members to showcase research and innovation and share good practice, learning and resources for simulation. We also continue to advocate for the vital role of simulated learning in nursing education and have called on the government in our General Election Manifesto to commit to sustained capital investment and a more adaptive regulatory framework to further embrace simulated practice learning and technologies in promoting patient care.  

Megan Isherwood, Policy Officer, Council of Deans of Health 



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