Immediate Feedback Gives Students More of What They Need to Succeed

August 10, 2018

Feedback to students is one of the most important parts of nursing education. When nursing students struggle, direct exchanges with their instructor can help them from feeling defeated or inadequate. Positive feedback drives home an assignment objective and rewards appropriate critical thinking and decision-making.

In classrooms and simulation labs, the face-to-face interaction with faculty and feedback from classmates gives them practical remediation direction. Feedback doesn’t get any more immediate than in clinical rotations. However, it’s not always possible to stop a patient encounter for a “teaching moment,” and students can feel overwhelmed by the risk of the situation.

Over that past few years, another source of training that offers timely feedback has come into vogue. Online simulations are becoming part of the curriculum, enabled by the confluence of communications technology, shifting teaching philosophies and proof-of-concept.

Don’t just take our word for it. In a 2015 article published by the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice titled “The time is right for Web-based clinical simulation in nursing education” you’ll find that the authors came to this conclusion:

The time is right for greater distribution and sharing of web-based simulation resources for teaching in both undergraduate and at professional levels. Web-based simulation programs are a valuable resource that should be used in combination with traditional forms of laboratory and classroom teaching in order to facilitate the development of students’ clinical competence.

Great, right? But why? We’ve identified some key reasons why online simulations are effective.

  • Nursing students don’t feel incompetent or defeated – Virtual simulations allow students to break down the topic, focus on areas that pose issues, and tackle new levels of difficulty as they master each skill. Gamification engages and makes it possible to immediately reward success as well as identify shortcomings.
  • The format allows for self-paced learning – Some training scenarios (both online and “real world”) put time limits on assignments. Students are pressured to make a decision, which doesn’t fit the learning style for some of them; and choosing from a drop-down or multiple-choice menu before the deadline doesn’t necessarily foster learning. In our Prioritization of Care scenario, for example, we will soon offer two versions: a “standard (high-stakes) version” providing one or two opportunities to correct any errors before grading; and a “practice (low-stakes) version” providing endless practice opportunities. We believe both versions and approaches have their place.
  • Nursing students can experience leadership roles – Gamification allows you to role-play. For example, students become the charge nurse in our Patient Management and Delegation online clinical scenario. They are tasked with analyzing handoff reports, assigning patients to staff nurses while accounting for nurses’ track records for efficiency and experience. They also can delegate help from nursing assistants. Feedback comes in two ways: getting answers right and wrong and through body language of their colleagues; if a nurse’s case load overloads them, their facial expression changes.
  • Rationale, not just responses, is required – The wizardry of interactive software allows free-form responses and the ability for the nurse educator to assess a student’s decisions. So, nursing students aren’t simply filling out an SBAR or EHR, they’re using (and being evaluated on) their critical thinking and decision-making. Instructors can quickly review the rationale, guide accordingly and even verify student integrity.

Bonus: Helping Teachers Teach Better

To quote a client school faculty member, “As an instructor, the simulation allowed me to know exactly what the students were viewing, so that I could draw connections between their reading and what they were seeing.”

The nursing profession demands knowledge of complex subject matter, and the ability to make decisions with confidence and reprioritize based on changing information. By combining traditional methods with new tools, we can help students overcome intellectual, emotional and time-management challenges.

Are you using or considering using online simulations and clinical scenarios in your school? Do you, as a student, have any thoughts on how this new tool helps you, or can be improved? We welcome your thoughts!