Virtual Simulation Learning for Practical Nursing Students


During this uncertain time, providing high-quality education for our students still remains a top priority for us. In order to keep our staff and students safe, we’ve put many measures in place to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for all. However, we know that additional challenges can arise for those studying to be health care practitioners like Health Care Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses, where hospital and/or long-term care on-site experiences are a key part of the learning process. The severe shortage in both occupations, reinforced by the want from students and the appeals from the industry, urges us, as an educator, to persevere. For this reason, we are still actively teaching within a framework that places the safety and well-being of our students and faculty to the fore. 

Providing Reinforcement Training During COVID-19

One of the measures we impart to enhance the learning process is to offer reinforcement training, in situations where we can. If during these particularly strenuous times, the healthcare facility still has the bandwidth to accept students, and the school has comfort with the arrangement, our students can receive a reinforcement of training related to the practices of safety and infectious diseases containment before they leave for their site placement. In this situation, we also work closely with the site to ensure that incoming students are aware of the site-specific protocols, and of course, are closely monitored by their clinical instructors.

Virtual Simulation Learning for Practical Nursing Students

While we do our best to support in-person learning as much as we can, a combination of staff shortages, outbreaks, and other factors hinder the availability of clinical placements during scheduled timeframes. In these situations, we provide additional campus lab access, introduce new classes, and specifically for nursing students, offer a virtual clinical experience until site placements become available.

virtual nursing simulation for practical nursing students

A hybrid of teaching that includes the use of simulation software has received strong support as “simulation represents the ideal strategy for nursing students to develop, refine, and rehearse [their] clinical skills in recognizing and responding to patient deterioration in a safe environment.”

First, second, third, and fourth level Practical Nursing students at Sprott Shaw have access to a simulation software that supports the curriculum through realistic virtual clinical scenario test simulations. This software is a resource that supports students with lab and Integrated Nursing Practices (INP) hours and clinical and critical thinking skills. Simulations are clearly laid out and provide practice for students to answer questions and make decisions by drawing on other resources, which is a required skill that is tested with the new REx-PN (national exam).

virtual nursing simulation for practical nursing students

The simulation software is similar to a first-person video game where student nurses select options and next steps. Following the decisions of the student, patient reactions are intuitive and based on their selected actions. To complete the patient experience, the simulation also includes resources that students must draw on such as documentation, lab results, e-charts, and medication administration.

Based on initial survey results among students, it is revealed that 83% of students who have used the software agree that the post-simulation questions and reflections contributed to their knowledge, and that the information they learned during the simulation will be beneficial to them in their clinical training.

Below are a few quotes from our students:

“I like that it makes you use critical thinking and all the skills we’ve learned.”

“I like the realism.”

“I did like the feel of being in a clinical simulation. I appreciated seeing the questions and different ways of asking them.”

“I really enjoyed this program and truly happy I got more than one chance to try. It took me the first try to figure out where everything was, and the feedback was my saving grace. I love the eMAR with all the tabs that show information…This practise truly helps me connect the dots of the nursing process.”

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