Simulation Education: MSN Training in the Modern Age

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On Nov. 30, 2015, Duquesne University unveiled its Simulation Center, complete with a lifelike SimMan® mannequin, capable of imitating human biological movements and symptoms, and other high-tech equipment designed to seem like a real-life hospital room for the benefit of nursing students.

Simulation in nursing education helps bridge the gap between nursing theory and practice

Simulation in nursing education allows instructors to re-enact actual hospital room incidents and bridge the gap between nursing theory and practice. The results speak for themselves: Nurses educated with simulators exhibit improved competency, especially in new procedures, and have a higher degree of confidence in their work.

Students earning a master’s in nursing education online can expect simulation to be an integral part of their careers. The nursing education concentration in Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) curriculum offers nurses the opportunity to include teaching as part of their advanced practice role and to sit for the Certified Nurse Educator designation sponsored by the National League for Nursing.

The Benefits of Simulation Education

Simulation education can be both a teaching aid and an evaluation method for student nurses. It can incorporate screen-based training modules, virtual patients and patient simulators, and standardized patients (individuals who act like real-world patients).

The goal is to provide hands-on opportunities to augment classroom instruction. Suling Li, Ph.D., RN, itemizes the primary advantages to simulators in nurse training in her presentation, “The Role of Simulation in Nursing Education: A Regulatory Perspective” on According to Li, simulation training:

  • Reduces training variations and increases standardization.
  • Guarantees experience for all students.
  • Can be customized for individuals’ learning objectives.
  • Is more accurate, especially with computerized patient mannequins known as human-fidelity patient simulators (HPS).
  • Is centered more on the student than the instructor.
  • Allows for independent decision-making, critical thinking, and delegation.
  • Allows for immediate feedback.
  • Offers students the opportunity to practice rare and critical situations.
  • Can be manipulated and customized for a number of different learning objectives.
  • Is capable of being calibrated and updated to expand its usefulness.
  • Offers students the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them without harming a living patient.

The idea driving simulation education is to guide nursing students incrementally toward real-world experience. First, students receive classroom instruction. Then they are given a chance to apply what they’ve learned during simulation exercises before moving onto clinicals and finally real-world experience.

The HPS training tool can also be used to help nurses and other healthcare students practice the types of scenarios they would encounter in their fields. In a geriatric unit, for instance, an HPS can help nurses better understand how to recognize signs and symptoms of aging and better care for managing patients with chronic conditions.

Simulation can also be an evaluation method. For example, as Michelle Aebersold, Ph.D., RN, and Dana Tschannen, Ph.D., RN, write in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “new hires could be required to successfully complete a series of skill-based simulations (e.g. mastery of suctioning tracheostomies, assessing chest tubes, IV insertion) prior to completing orientation.”

Simulation could also be used to ensure annual competencies or remediate poor performing employees, they note.

The Role of Educators in Simulation Training

Simulation in nursing education has steadily worked its way into nursing schools all over the world, especially in developed nations. Simulators are used for a variety of different objectives, including both student and employee orientation and assessment, competency validation, the development of communication skills and teamwork, high-stakes testing and reflective exploration.

In the digital age, nursing schools are seeing an increase in younger, tech-savvy students. According to simulation coordinator Lori Lioce, in “New Validation for Simulation Education” in The American Nurse, these students are well versed in the use of computers, games and mobile devices, and tend to respond very favorably to the introduction of simulators in their training programs.

Lioce stresses the importance of going into a simulation session with a solid framework for each exercise. Facilitators must explain in detail the students’ roles, expectations, and measurable objectives. Instructors who take the time to plan each activity and walk students through their roles tend to see better results from simulators. And because simulators are built on complex computer equipment, proper programming of the HPS is essential to an effective session. The better the simulation experience, the more prepared students will be for live patients.

“As a simulation advocate, I am inspired by what the future of education holds and envision increased implementation into advanced practice with further development of advanced practice simulations, development of simulators that will allow more specific incorporation of advanced skills, and more independent interaction along with increased applications for development of products that will enable participant-led exploration of treatment interventions,” says Lioce.

“I truly believe advancements in health care simulation will continue to positively influence patient safety, increase competent practice, bring to life clinical education and encourage lifelong learning.”

Duquesne University Master Of Science In Nursing Program

Students in Duquesne’s Master’s in Nursing Education online (MSN) program can gain simulation experience at the university’s 7,000-square-foot Learning and Simulation Center during their required on-campus residency period. The center is designed to imitate the look and feel of a working hospital, complete with audio recordings and video projectors that re-create a hospital environment.

The nursing curriculum for Duquesne’s MSN concentration in nursing education includes foundations of family and individual care for women, men, infants, children and adolescents, and transitioning to advanced nursing practice.

Graduates may opt to go become nursing school faculty members or pursue a post-master’s certificate (PMC). Duquesne also offers concentrations in Family Nurse Practitioner and Forensic Nursing.

Sources:, “The Role of Simulation in Nursing Education” 
The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Simulation in Nursing Practice”
The American Nurse, “New Validation for Simulation Education”