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New simulation project provides real-world experience for health students

Practical learning experiences went to new heights for a group of health students from three disciplines who recently participated in a ground-breaking three shift simulation project.

Held at the University’s Cradle Coast Campus, the Three Shift Simulation Day saw Nursing, Medicine and Pharmacy students from the College of Health and Medicine put into practice their communication skills both with patients and with one another to achieve better patient outcomes.

Students participated in simulated morning, evening and night shifts compressed into one day where they managed their own ‘patients’ and had the added support of facilitators and fellow students.

Professor of Simulation and Innovation in the School of Nursing Kerry Reid-Searl said the simulation was all about health care professionals across disciplines improving patient care through communication and training.

“When we look at things like coroner’s reports and patient safety, the common denominator in patient harm is communication and it’s communications between disciplines,” Professor Reid-Searl said.

She said the students were “fantastic”, coping well with a typical ward environment while dealing with the anxiety of a new situation, but one they had trained for.

Professor Reid-Searl said it was there the students were able to put into practice what they knew with the facilitators on hand to support them through the process.

Associate Professor of Nursing Pieter Van Dam said communication was very important in health care, particularly in the delivery of health care.

“We know that if we improve our communication, the way we deliver the care really contributes to better patient outcomes,” he said.

“If you start early in your undergraduate degrees with the aim of students taking this into their practice when they are finished their degree and become a graduate, they can take these skills with them and really be a very good communicator.”

Second year Cradle Coast nursing student Kaela Bakes said she surprised herself with the confidence she displayed during the simulation.

“Handling medications and stuff like that is what we’ve had a lot of practice at and so it felt a little bit second nature, but the communication with the other disciplines is key and knowing how much you put into your communication and documentation is important to see the patient gets the best care,” she said.

Rural Clinical School Professor Lizzi Shires said watching the students interacting in their interprofessional activities was important to their future careers.

“We want to have our medical students training with the nursing students because by learning together and growing together it makes a big difference,” Professor Shires said.

“I think if you teach students professionally very early in their careers they have a better understanding of the team’s roles and can work together for the best outcomes for our patients."

Nursing lecturer Larissa Smart said nationally the University of Tasmania could be leaders in multidisciplinary simulation learning.

“I think the incidental learning, being able to move around in bed space and touching equipment and asking each other questions and picking up the phone to call the pharmacy, that would perhaps be behaviour that they observe if somebody in the medical hierarchy whereas they were actually doing it and by the end they were really confident to do things, which is core to building that communication,” she said.

The simulation initiative, led by the School of Nursing, was evaluated for research purposes and the findings will contribute to best practice in interdisciplinary learning one that could eventually become standard teaching practice in universities across the country.

The project will be rolled out to other University of Tasmania campuses, such as Launceston, Hobart and Rozelle.  It is hoped that once the research project is complete that the simulation program will be transferrable and useable at campuses throughout Australia.

Published on: 27 May 2022 11:57am