Why Peer-to-Peer Learning Sticks in Healthcare Simulation

In this article, Laerdal Medical shares why peer-to-peer learning sticks and how it can be used as a valuable teaching method to supplement traditional classroom learning.

In a typical lecture class, only 40% of learners are actively paying attention. In nursing schools, the common burden to do more with less has the potential to negatively affect learners and their experience. For nursing programs, the problem is much more serious. Learners who are expected to graduate with life-saving skills and knowledge may not recall a large portion of the material.

Some educators have seen success by assigning learners to teach each other and the positive impact this can have is known as the “Protégé Effect”. In the context of simulation training, this concept presents an ideal opportunity to take an old-school learning method and make it new.


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Peer-to-peer learning, sometimes referred to as peer teaching or peer mentoring, involves learners facing the same scenario learning from and with each other through their interactions. The assigned teacher, the protégé, generally makes a greater effort to absorb the material knowing that they will have to teach that same material to someone else. And, the non-protégé benefits from the social experience of engaging with another student to collaboratively construct their understanding of the material.

In nursing schools, peer-to-peer learning has become an emerging trend. Below, we highlight three ways that this educational approach can help you to effectively train new nurses.

1. You can shape more quality clinical experiences with less

In the average American college or university, the student to faculty member ratio is 16:1. Within nursing programs, faculty are even more outnumbered by students. The common burden to do more with less in nursing schools has the potential to negatively affect learners and their experience.


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Peer-to-peer learning can help to satisfy the needs of learners for simulated skills training. One study showed that students who learned through peer teaching had significantly higher performance scores than those who were trained by assistant teaching staff in traditional clinical sessions. Another study demonstrated that learners also see an increase in confidence when performing psychomotor skills in a peer-led environment. Both studies suggest that peer-to-peer learning can be used to improve learner outcomes.

For organizations battling low faculty and staff numbers, peer-to-peer learning may help. Instructors still play an instrumental role by setting expectations, assigning teams, and overseeing the learner interactions as they play out. However, the learners are tasked with leading the session and providing detailed feedback and coaching.

2. You can engage learners with teamwork, communication, and feedback

A recent study found that 39% of millennials (born between 1981-1996) admit that they interact more with their smartphones than they do with their significant others, parents, friends, or co-workers. It’s become increasingly normal for learners to experience more screen time than face-to-face time with other learners or their instructors. And, with a fully packed curriculum, the time for discussion and group exercises can be limited.

Peer-to-peer learning has the potential to help you prevent your learners from feeling isolated in their studies. Research shows that peer partnerships support the transition from university to nursing practice, particularly because they can prepare students to become mentors in the clinical setting and reduce student anxieties. Learners can also benefit from the socialization with peers, relying on them for guidance as well as help coping with academic stress.

The psychological benefits are paramount, but that is not all that peer-to-peer learning offers. One study among nursing students shows that peer learning led to improvement in clinical accuracy and reducing mistakes. Learners can improve in their cognitive abilities by repeating a skill or scenario time and time again, until they are confident that they can perform a task perfectly.

3. You can improve ROI for your organization and your learners

Growing student populations, budget cuts, and increasing demands on staff have encouraged many universities and colleges to seek supplemental approaches to their traditional teaching methods. Healthcare Simulation, which boasts a wealth of benefits, is often praised by experts for its potential for a high return in investment (ROI). Peer-to-peer learning can result in various types of ROI:

  • Time-savings: Rather than one instructor making rounds to assess each individual learner’s
    skills, learners can assess each other’s performance. This allows for multiple trainings to occur
    simultaneously, while ensuring that quality is not sacrificed.
  • Cost-savings: High-fidelity simulators can be costly to purchase and to run. Because of this, itís
    important to introduce skills training prior to running a full-blown, high-fidelity simulation. By
    using peer-to-peer learning, learners can focus on their foundational skills and knowledge
  • ROI for the learner: One study found that peer learning helped learners to develop professional
    skills, such as feedback techniques, leadership qualities, and autonomy in learning. Considering
    the large investment that learners make toward their education, it can bode well for an
    organization if learners reflect on their experience fondly.

Peer-to-peer learning can provide opportunities for multiple forms of ROI with very little risk involved.

Peer-to-Peer Learning Can Help

While peer-to-peer learning is not intended to replace traditional classroom learning or high-fidelity simulation, it can be a useful way of supplementing each method. The valuable training opportunity can help your faculty maximize their time and help your learners (and their future patients) reap the benefits of safe skills practice.

If you’re interested in learning more about peer-to-peer learning, download the Laerdal Peer-to-Peer DOs and DONTs Checklist via the link below!

Learn more about Why Peer-to-Peer Learning Sticks &
Download Laerdal’s Do’s & Don’ts Checklist!


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