In nursing education, simulation provides one of the most accurate possible representations of a care situation. It can be categorized relative to its degree of clinical fidelity: high, intermediate, or low. Simulation also provides students with an opportunity to develop their clinical judgment skills in a safe environment to prepare them for what they may experience in the clinical setting. Virtual patient simulations fall under high-fidelity simulations because they are extremely realistic and provide a high level of interactivity and realism for the learner.
Virtual patient simulations have been comparable or superior to other high-fidelity traditional simulation methods for various reasons. Here are some of the top examples outlined in Shadow Health’s Research Report, Using Virtual Patient Simulation in Substitution for Traditional Clinical Hours in Undergraduate Nursing that support how virtual patient simulations can give students essential practice for developing clinical judgment skills.
- Research shows that patient scenarios can be more realistic and challenging than manikins or standardized patient actors due to the flexibility to create virtual scenarios that highlight features or skills that would not be accessible otherwise. One example includes physical findings, like abnormal heart rhythms or breath sounds.
- For online or blended programs, high-fidelity manikins may not be the most effective alternative to account for hours of clinical instruction. Virtual patient simulations can be accessible to any student regardless of where their classroom may be.
- Because simulation laboratories usually require multiple high-fidelity manikins and specialized faculty and technicians, setup and maintenance costs can be very high. Scheduling can also be complicated for face-to-face nursing programs with 100 or more students, as working groups typically include no more than eight students in simulation laboratories.
- Studies have found students get more engaged with virtual patient scenarios and value having a safe environment to practice reasoning skills before seeing real patients in a clinical setting.
- Virtual patient scenarios can provide transformative learning experiences for students by challenging their prior knowledge and assumptions in light of deeper and more meaningful patient interaction.
- Using asynchronous, computer-based simulations, students can receive immediate and timely feedback that links back to practiced skills.