Wed. May 29th, 2024
nc efi placeholder

Awareness of the importance of simulation-based learning in nursing education is on the rise, and there are numerous and undeniable benefits to this new training method. Using a variety of instruments to imitate real-world patient scenarios – including high-fidelity mannequins, electronic simulators, and virtual reality tools – these simulated environments enable nursing students to learn and practice a variety of nursing tasks in a safe setting without running the danger of making mistakes with actual patients. The benefits, drawbacks, and suggested practices of simulation-based learning in nursing education are highlighted in this article.

Benefits of simulation-based learning in nursing education

  • Improved patient safety

Nursing students have the chance to experience different clinical settings and hone their clinical abilities through simulation-based learning. By giving students the chance to hone their abilities in a risk-free setting, simulation-based learning can increase patient safety in nursing education.

For example, a nursing student is given the duty of caring for a patient who has just received a sepsis diagnosis in a simulated scenario. The patient is exhibiting a variety of symptoms, so the students must swiftly determine the cause and administer the necessary treatment.

Through the simulation, the students can practice various skills, including:

  • Assessing the patient’s vital signs and symptoms accurately
  • Prioritizing care based on the patient’s condition
  • Administering appropriate medications and interventions
  • Communicating effectively with the healthcare team

In order to improve their patient care in real-world settings, these simulations give trainees a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them. Of course, the importance of safety is especially high for patients, who may be experiencing a complex, traumatic, or unusual medical condition that students may not be fully equipped to deal with yet. It can also be disturbing for a patient to have a trainee nurse working with them, and in the interest of patient wellbeing, adopting the practice of simulation training more widely is advisable. In recent years, the awareness of mental health in physical health has become more widespread, and for professionals such as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, it is vital to be sensitive to the multitude of factors affecting patient safety, well-being, and overall health – all of which are skills that can be learned and developed at a top university such as Spring Arbor.

Nursing Education

  • Enhanced learning

Simulation-based learning allows nursing students to learn and practice various nursing skills in a controlled environment, where clinical practice can be fully analyzed and reflected upon. It provides a vital middle ground between learning in lectures and learning on placement in real hospital environments. This type of learning has several benefits, including:

Active participation: It allows students to engage with their academic learning material and apply their knowledge in a practical but controlled setting, encouraging active engagement with both the clinical and academic aspects of their course.

Realistic scenarios: Simulations are designed to create realistic scenarios that mimic real-world situations. These scenarios provide students with a safe space to practice their clinical skills and develop their critical thinking abilities.

Immediate feedback: It provides students with immediate feedback on their performance, allowing them to identify areas where they need to improve. This feedback helps students learn from their mistakes and refine their skills.

Interdisciplinary collaboration: Simulations often involve interdisciplinary collaboration, allowing nursing students to work alongside other healthcare professionals such as physicians, pharmacists, and respiratory therapists. This collaboration helps students understand the roles and responsibilities of other healthcare professionals and develop communication skills that are essential for providing safe and effective patient care.

  • Increased confidence

Simulation-based learning helps nursing students gain confidence in their clinical skills. It provides them with the opportunity to make mistakes safely and to practice various clinical scenarios repeatedly until they feel confident in their abilities. This study investigates students’ perceptions of effective educational practices in simulation as well as assesses their satisfaction and self-confidence. The findings give significant evidence for adopting serial simulation as a teaching method. Students were pleased with their participation, felt confident in their ability, and believed the simulations were founded on strong educational techniques and were useful for learning.

  • Transferability of skills

Although simulations do not automatically transfer knowledge to actual clinical practice, they can effectively facilitate transfer with relatively low-cost methods. However, to achieve this, students must temporarily suspend their disbelief and engage with the simulation as they would in real-world scenarios. Educators can enhance the realism of simulated patients by providing appropriate levels of detail and by drawing on students’ life-wide experiences. At times, educators may challenge students by presenting simulations that explore realities beyond their lived experiences.

To help students connect simulated experiences to real patients in clinical settings, opportunities for critical reflection are crucial. Critical reflection requires students to recount, analyze, and evaluate their individual and collective observations of the simulated experience. Through this process, students can develop a deeper understanding of the underlying principles of medical practice, which can enhance their performance and effectiveness when working with real patients in clinical settings.

Challenges of simulation-based learning in nursing education

Whereas simulation-based instruction is an increasingly common way of teaching in nursing school, it also has some drawbacks. The following are some of the most common challenges encountered in simulation-based learning in nursing education:

  • Cost

It costs money to train nursing students using simulation. The cost of implementing simulation-based learning can be high because it requires specialized facilities and technology. High-tech tools including manikins, task trainers, computer programs, and audio-visual systems are frequently needed in simulation labs. In addition to the cost of equipment, the total cost of simulation training is increased by the need for qualified staff to create and carry out simulations.

  • Realism

While simulations are designed to mimic real-world scenarios, they may not always fully replicate the complexities of patient care. For instance, students may not experience the full range of emotions or reactions that real patients may exhibit. It is essential that the learner behaves as though the simulation is real in order for it to be effective. Student’s willingness to suspend disbelief and participate in the made-up roles and situations that are presented to them will depend on how realistic the simulation is. To accomplish the common objectives, students must be able to collaborate with one another and accept the simulation as if it were genuine.

This also means that scenarios must be realistic and true to the realities that nurses will encounter, which means aspects of nursing that might seem routine or even dull. These details are hugely important to include in simulated scenarios. While it might be tempting to simulate only high-risk and high-pressure scenarios – the very situations educators might prefer students to be practicing on a dummy – it is important that every stage of the hypothetical patient’s treatment is enacted, because these too are important realities of nursing.

However, it is also crucial that simulations broaden students’ horizons and introduce them to uncommon medical events. The reality presented in simulations should not be limited to factual circumstances but should instead connect with the simulated patients’ lives in a more comprehensive manner, encompassing a range of experiences and situations that are relevant to their lives. This approach allows for a more lifetime vision of medical practice and avoids stereotypical narrowness in the way medical scenarios are presented to students.

Best practices for simulation-based learning in nursing education

The INACSL Standards Committee and the INACSL Board of Directors (BOD) are the entities involved in the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. These two entities created standards and best practices that guide simulation-based learning in nursing education. Some of the best practices are discussed below.

  • Planned debriefing

Input, debriefing, and/or guided observation are all possible components of the debriefing process, and it must be carried out utilizing a variety of methodologies that are founded in theoretical frameworks and concepts supported by empirical research. The term “process” refers to input, debriefing, and guided observation unless otherwise specified, and should be adaptable to every simulation-based technique.

Whether they pertain to an individual, team, or system, the main goal of the debriefing method is to highlight and address shortcomings in knowledge, skill, attitude, and communication. Gaining insights, improving performance, and facilitating the application and integration of knowledge into practice are all goals of the debriefing process. Although the scheduled debriefing session shouldn’t be used as a supplementary lecture session, it can be a beneficial educational opportunity.

  • Pre-briefing

Prioritizing pre-briefing information before simulation-based experiences is crucial for learners to succeed and can also improve debriefing and reflection. A planned preparation and pre-briefing can help manage the cognitive load demands of learners and enhance the overall effectiveness of the simulation-based experience.

To ensure that simulations are of the highest caliber, instructors, and educators must possess a thorough understanding of simulation pedagogy, especially during the pre-briefing stage.

  • Simulation objectives and outcomes

Outcomes and objectives are an effective method of educating nursing students. Outcomes and objectives play a crucial role in the design and success of simulations. Outcomes refer to measurable results that demonstrate the learner’s progress toward achieving a set of objectives.

Objectives are guiding tools that provide a clear plan for achieving desired learning outcomes. They should include cognitive skills and affective domains of learning to enhance learners’ knowledge, skills, and experience. The ultimate aim of creating objectives is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to promote safe patient care practices. By incorporating well-designed objectives, simulation-based learning can effectively prepare nursing students for real-world clinical settings.

  • Evaluation of the student

The ability to assess learners’ knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and actions in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective areas of learning is made possible by simulation-based experiences (SBEs).

The use of formative evaluation helps learners develop and moves them closer to achieving goals or results. The summative evaluation, on the other hand, is concerned with gauging results or the accomplishment of goals at a certain point in time, such as the conclusion of a course of study.

A high-stakes evaluation is one that will have major effects or repercussions depending on the results, such as merit pay, advancement, or grades. According to research, learning can be benefited from hearing about other people’s SBE experiences. If the student is in a spectator role during the SBE, the supervisor may consider evaluating the spectator as well.


Simulation-based learning has become an essential part of nursing education due to its many benefits. It provides nursing students with the opportunity to practice various clinical scenarios and improve their clinical skills. However, simulation-based learning also presents some challenges, such as cost and time constraints. To ensure the success of simulation-based learning in nursing education, it is essential to align it with learning objectives, provide adequate feedback, and ensure realism in simulation scenarios.