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‘Simulated practice is the way forward for training’

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Conferences are great occasions for immersing yourself in your specialist subject. The ‘Striving for Excellence’ conference at Cardiff University last month was such an occasion.

Delegates had a chance to learn, network and return empowered from knowing that they weren’t the only student practice facilitator who prepares their students for nursing by acting the distraught mother in another role-play session.

The conference’s main focus was on the increasing role that simulated practice will play in training. The reasons for this are clear. As one speaker confessed: ‘As a nurse in training, I practised on patients.’ We all did. But they were consent-giving adults.

Training as paediatric nurses, we all practised on children. But most children aren’t able to give informed consent because they’re too young to understand what a given procedure might entail. That renders
a central tenet of our practice unethical.

So, where does that leave us? Simulations are the way ahead. Students find them especially valuable, building confidence before they face the reality on the ward.

Back in late 2007 the NMC recognised the value of experience gained through simulated practice, suggesting that nursing students could supplement their ward hours with time spent in simulation labs.

But labs are not always an option – a fact acknowledged in the title of one conference presentation: ‘From the Cot in the Corner.’ The situation was familiar to many delegates, whose paediatric simulation lab was a toy doll in a cot in the corner of a ward.

Teaching fellows from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast are trailblazers in simulated practice, having set up their own high-quality simulation lab. They have state-of-the-art manikins that move, cry and generate a pulse.

They even have CCTV to record nurses’ sessions with simulated patients. Practice educators able to beat a path to Belfast return full of inspiration, know-how and strategies for achieving excellence in their own hospitals.

Cost is a concern since manikins can run to thousands of pounds. But one group of nurses from Huddersfield has devised a board game in which participants play the different roles involved in running a ward. Costing a few pounds, it proves simulated learning need not be too expensive.

When nurses team up with doctors and other members of the multidisciplinary team to share resources and fund simulated practice, a more satisfactory model for training should be all but ensured.

Brian Belle-Fortune is a student practice facilitator at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Want to read more of Brian Belle-Fortune’s opinions? Just click on the 'more by this author' link at the top of the page

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