Simulation, which is used increasingly in nursing education, can be a valuable tool to teach nursing students to evaluate mental health conditions in patients who initially see health providers for medical concerns, suggests a recent Canadian study published in the September issue of Clinical Simulation in Nursing.
The study involved 56 nursing students at Western University in London, Ontario. The students were enrolled in a 19-month accelerated BSN program, and participated weekly in three-hour simulation sessions over six weeks. Sessions included briefing and debriefing periods as well as simulated scenarios with standardized patients, who are people trained by a local medical school to act as clinic patients with mental health conditions. These patients work from detailed scripts. Nursing students took turns interviewing “patients” in areas designed to look like examination rooms. Others observed and documented the interactions.
“By working with clients in a simulated family clinic, students were able to learn how to recognize mental health concerns when faced with a seemingly physical health concern,” wrote the study’s authors, Abram Oudshoorn, PhD, RN, and Barbara Sinclair, MSN, RN. “They also had the opportunity to learn how to perform a suicide risk assessment, something that was not readily available in an inpatient setting.”
Student feedback on a questionnaire was overwhelmingly positive, the study reported. The small study joins a number of others showing the benefits of using simulation to teach nurses how to feel comfortable and interact with mental health patients in real-life situations.
“Where students in clinical practice are often assigned to work with easy-going and agreeable clients and families, simulation provides an opportunity to increase the difficulty of cases without putting clients, families or students at risk,” the study’s authors stated in their conclusion.