Using professional actors in teaching clinical skills for the Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Decision Making module and also for the OSCE assessments related to this module.


Please describe the innovation you have developed

This year we have increased our postgraduate education provision significantly with the introduction of a new MSc Advanced Clinical Practice (Sept 2015) and additional standalone modules.There has been a great deal of interest in the Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Decision Making module where we have been exploring new ways of teaching and assessment for nurses who may have been in practice for a considerable number of years and not had much recent exposure to higher education. Following the clinical-expert-led theory sessions we gave the students the opportunity to practice their skills in our clinical skills labs to build their confidence and assessment skills with experienced facilitators. They were then given specific case scenarios where actors played the role of the patient with a range of symptoms and presenting complaints (female patient presenting to the Emergency Department with pain and symptoms indicative of Gallstones, for example) . The actors are specially trained in playing the role of the patient and portraying realistic cases. They also provide feedback to the student on how they felt the student undertook the assessment.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

To provide a realistic clinical assessment and enable inclusive learning for students inexperienced in physical assessment.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

This innovation enables nurses to build their confidence and skills base in an assessment involving ‘real’ people rather than manikins. The feedback the actors provide (such as ‘you can press harder there’ or ‘can you feel my kidneys there?’) was more meaningful than that available from the simulated manikins or when ‘practising’ on each other in earlier sessions.
The evaluation of this course was excellent with many students commenting on how the ‘patient actors’ had helped them consolidate their learning in a real life situation.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

The actors are based within our College of Medical and Dental Sciences and contribute to other programmes, mainly in the area of communication skills training.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

The student evaluations indicate they find this learning approach extremely satisfying and convincing. We plan to work with the actors in one of our new modules in Spring next year, ‘Advancing Care for Older People with Complex Needs’, which is designed to enable students to develop advanced skills in the care of older people with mental health problems. The actors will play the roles of older patients with dementia, delirium and depression and present a realistic challenge to the students to make a full assessment of their needs and plan high quality care.

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

Student evaluation revealed that this was very well received by the students on the module. They felt it was ‘close to real life’ and ‘the patient actors’ were excellent’.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

We have plans to disseminate this more widely (see below).

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

We plan to undertake an evaluative research project to examine the impact of this innovation. The findings will be reported in peer reviewed journal papers e.g. Nurse Education Today, Journal of Advanced Nursing etc and presented at suitable conferences.