Nursing Simulation Lab Scenarios Mirror the Realities of Patient Care

The reality of nursing is that no two patient care situations are alike. Because every patient has a unique personality and background, nurses need to be able to adapt their approach to care. One of the ways our ABSN program prepares you for the profession includes having you participate in diverse nursing simulation lab scenarios.

Nursing Simulation Lab Scenarios Mirror the Diverse Realities of Patient Care

Simulation Sequence

Our nursing simulations support specific learning objectives that challenge you to work through different patient care scenarios. We sequence these simulations to follow a natural learning progression ― as the ABSN curriculum advances, so do the scenarios.

Early in the program, simulations focus on the basics of nursing practice, such as patient safety, physical assessment, and interprofessional communication. Subsequent simulations are more complex, involving multifaceted patient care scenarios.

For example, there’s a simulation where you need to tend to a new mother experiencing postpartum bleeding. Yes, there will be blood—but don’t worry, it’s fake.

Overall, simulation offers a realistic learning environment where you can demonstrate what you know without adverse consequence. In turn, we (as faculty) can observe how well you integrate theory, practice, and reasoning in real-time clinical situations.

Curriculum Connection

Before you participate in a simulation, you’ll have the knowledge and skills necessary to complete the learning objectives for that scenario. It’s important these nursing simulation lab scenarios align with your skill level. When a scenario is too easy or too difficult, it’s of little, if any, learning value to you.

For example, imagine you’re in a diabetes education simulation where you’re tasked with helping an adult female patient understand her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and teaching her how to manage the metabolic disease. By this point in the program, you’ll understand the role insulin plays in the body and will have already practiced skills related to diabetes care.

Dr. Jaime Musler, director of interprofessional medical simulation at Northeastern University, says taking a student who has no nursing knowledge and having them graduate as a practice-ready nurse involves a complex learning process.

As a nursing student, you need to learn the fundamentals and theories of nursing practice (online courses), convert that knowledge into a psychomotor skill (nursing skills labs), and then be able to pull everything together within the scope of diverse clinical practice (nursing simulation labs and clinical rotations).

Northeastern ABSN student treating a simulation manikin in a lab setting.Independent Learning

Everyone learns differently and comes to a simulation with different life experiences. While the look, feel, and objectives of a nursing simulation are the same for all ABSN students, the way you navigate the experience will be different from your peers.

For instance, you may meet the learning objective in 15 minutes, whereas another student may take 10 minutes. And that’s OK, because there’s always more than one way of doing something.

Through simulation technology, we can take a nursing scenario in different directions based on your individual learning needs. We can make “on the fly adjustments” to a patient scenario based on your clinical actions and behavioral responses.

Reality Check

After each simulation, you’ll participate in a debriefing to discuss your experience—the actual learning component of the activity. These debriefings encourage you to reflect on the simulation while giving us the opportunity to understand your actions and clinical approach.

Simulations can be emotional for students. That’s why we use the first few minutes of a debriefing to let you decompress. Whether a simulation has left you feeling stressed, concerned, or happy, it’s important for us to understand your emotional state and help you resolve any unsettled feelings.

“Students often enter the debriefing room worried or emotional about how well they handled the simulation. We give them a few moments to decompress and calm their feelings. If it weren’t for decompression, many students wouldn’t be able to reflect on the simulation in a way that’s conducive to learning,” Musler said.

Following decompression, the debrief becomes an open-ended conversation about how you think you did and how we perceived your performance. Debriefings, like simulations, are unique to every student. Some students struggle with communication during a simulation, while others have difficulty with the technical piece. In other words, your debriefing conversations will speak directly to your clinical strengths and weaknesses.

Northeastern accelerated nursing student participating in a simulation lab.Personal Feelings Aside

Being able to watch your simulation performance first-hand is a powerful learning tool, which is why we record every simulation. At any point of the activity, we can pause and discuss a specific action that took place. “There’s usually a specific reason why a student does something or reacts a certain way,” Musler said.

Let’s say you rolled your eyes at the physician. It’s important to talk about what you were feeling at that moment. By reflecting on this emotional response, we can get to the root of what happened and give you constructive feedback as to how this reaction could negatively impact patient care.

Musler once watched a patient care simulation where the two nursing students involved never spoke to one other, leading him to believe they weren’t effective communicators. He found out in the debriefing they were roommates and had a fight earlier in the day. The learning objective of the debrief changed as a result. It became a lesson in how to put personal feelings aside to ensure quality patient outcomes.

No Grading Allowed

As a general rule, we keep grades out of nursing simulations because they would alter the learning dynamic of these activities. Students would focus on defending their actions instead of taking an honest, unbiased look at the situation.

Nursing simulation isn’t about getting out the red pen to emphasize student mistakes. It’s a teaching strategy that uses positive reinforcement to help improve and expand your skills. We want you to feel good about the process and approach every simulation eager to see how much you know and what you still need to learn.

Realism Without Risk

Our nursing simulation lab scenarios provide opportunities for you to intervene in realistic clinical situations without the fear of harming an actual patient. You’ll find we have some of the most sophisticated patient simulators in our nursing simulation facility. They can bleed, reproduce biological sounds, respond to drug interactions, and deliver vocal responses.

For some of our nursing simulations, we use standardized patients (real people). As lifelike as our simulators are, they can’t deliver the same level of social interaction as real people. Simulators typically carry out the patient role in high-risk scenarios, such as those involving severe hemorrhaging or cardiac arrest.

Practice Ready

Imagine walking into a patient room for the first time without knowing monitors would be beeping and IV alarms would be going off. You would probably be distracted. That’s why we make our simulation environments as close to real life as possible.

Practicing your skills in a mock clinical setting helps remove fear of the unknown. You become accustomed to thinking on your feet in different nursing scenarios, which makes for an easier transition into the real world. Students tell us time and time again simulation helped boost their confidence when working with a real patient for the first time.

Contact us to learn more about our ABSN program and nursing simulation lab scenarios.

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