May 3, 2008

Proposed: A Nursing Simulation Specialist

Simulation has always been a part of nursing education. Technical skills have been practiced on models for as long as there have been nursing schools. Newer models have computer-controlled simulation of breathing and circulation. They also have more life-like skin, wounds, and orifices. These simulators are widely praised for helping practice critical care experiences such as cardiac arrest, intubation, or respiratory failure. What seems to be lost is discussion on where these tools fit into nursing education, and how they should best be used. Many schools are seeking funding to buy simulators for US$50K and up; but much simulation can be done at no cost for machinery. 

The heart of nursing practice is interpersonal communication. That communication includes collecting data, interpretation of the data, and confirmation of your conclusions. Simulating these situations in complex and costly in development, but not in implementation. Also, many technical skills can be taught using simpler, more specialized models which may or may not have computer control.

Nurse educators must think beyond just buying a fancy human-sized, computer-controlled, life-like model. We need to think of how simulation of real life can help students learn both the physical and psychosocial aspects of nursing care in situations that need practice. We need to think of how and when simulation is best for learning, without getting over-enamored with the technology of simulation. 

What we need are nursing simulation specialists who can specialize in the creation and pedagogical research of how to best use simulators in nursing education.