June 21, 2021By Lance Baily

Immersive Virtual Clinical Simulations Transform Nursing Education

The push to find new ways to facilitate virtual nursing education programs following COVID-19 has led to an increased demand for practical virtual healthcare simulation solutions. Despite learning taking place in a virtual environment, nursing educators must continue to find practical ways to prepare learners with the knowledge and skills necessary for real-world nursing application. Further, hospitals and healthcare providers need ways to help new nurses transition to practice as well. Helping to achieve this outcome, Sentinel U offers a number of virtual simulations and clinicals for nursing education programs and healthcare organizations.

Designed for both pre- and post-licensure nurses and new nurses, Sentinel U’s virtual simulation topics range from community and population health to medical-surgical to interprofessional collaboration. With access to over 250 patients across 20 simulations, new nurses and nursing learners can hone their skills in a risk-free virtual environment. They can also use this resource to earn virtual clinical hours.

All of Sentinel U’s virtual simulations and clinicals map to QSEN Quality and Safety Competencies, AACN BSN Essentials, NLN Core Competencies, and Quad Council Core Competencies. As more products are developed, Sentinel U continues to enhance and adapt simulations and scenarios to fit the needs of the ever-evolving healthcare simulation environment. For example, this has included the development of products that make nurse educators’ lives easier by providing assignments, dashboards, and instructor guides.

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“Dr. Margaret A. Verkuyl’s Hayden Vanguard presentation at the INACSL 2021 conference showcased how virtual simulation is gaining momentum and serious gaming is being looked at as a pedagogically sound technique to be used in nursing education,” said Dr. Laura Gonzalez, vice president of Clinical Learning Resources at Sentinel U. “Sentinel U will be at the forefront of this paradigm shift. Our product portfolio helps nursing students develop critical thinking skills in a fun and engaging way.”

Sentinel U Products

Sentinel City: The company’s flagship innovation, this is an immersive clinical simulation that teaches community and population health. Originally developed to teach nursing students how to conduct windshield surveys, Sentinel City now includes 30 assignments and our Family Support and Home Assessment virtual clinical scenario.

HealthySimulation.com Founder Lance Baily shares that, “Working with a platform like Sentinel U which can deliver educational and training content across a number of applications saves costs to clinical simulation programs, because educators have to learn less individual systems and as well, learners can be better tracked over time without the need for operating a dozen different learning management systems. The less overhead, the better the ROI outcomes can be.”

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Sentinel Town: In Sentinel Town, learners will master assessment and intervention planning that impacts rural communities. The healthcare challenges faced by the underserved, aging, and sometimes poor community members in this virtual town highlight distinct differences faced by population health nurses working in cities.

Prioritization of Care–Hospital: This healthcare simulation scenario features 40 unique patients with symptoms ranging from early stage heart failure and respiratory distress to orthopedic pain and depression. Learners first record vital signs, interview, then chart observations and rationale in SBAR format. Then prioritize patients for treatment. Prioritization of Care–Clinic Features 50 unique patients with a significant focus on mental health/psychiatric, drugs/alcohol and women’s health patients. Includes highly requested settings including a behavioral health clinic, home clinic, jail clinic, women’s health clinic and a pediatric clinic.

Prioritization of Care–Specialty Series: During this series, learners will choose from virtual clinicals in 10 different settings: Adult Medical Care, Advanced Med/Surg, Antepartum/Intrapartum, Geriatrics, Mental/Behavioral Health Acute Care, Mental/Behavioral Health Chronic Care, Pediatrics Acute Care, Pediatrics Chronic Care, Postpartum/Neonatal Care and Adult Surgical Care.

Patient Management and Delegation: This is a virtual clinical where nurses act as charge nurses, and practice making management and delegation decisions based on handoff reports and other information.

Nursing Quality Indicators: This is a virtual clinical where nurses care for various patients across five levels and predict the impact of clinical judgments and nursing decisions.

Family Support and Home Assessment with Care Plan: This is an apartment walk-through that allows nurses to holistically assess families’ daily living environments.

Interprofessional Teams: This is a virtual clinical series designed for healthcare leaders, practicing nurses and nursing students who are sharpening their collaboration and communication skills.

Telehealth: This includes four virtual clinicals that teach nurses to assess, evaluate and monitor patients remotely. Choose from four different settings: Medical/Surgical, Maternal/OB, Pediatrics and Mental/Behavioral Health.

Why Nursing Educators Will Continue Using Virtual Simulation After the Pandemic

The most obvious reason to use virtual simulators is to deliver content in a remote asynchronous environment. Virtual simulation in healthcare allows learners to move at their own pace. This is an attractive concept in competency-based programs. This is critical as we begin to adopt and understand how the new AACN Essentials (2021) impacts pre-licensure or entry-level professional nursing education. Like manikin simulation, the virtual simulation offers the ability to experience high-risk, low volume situations. Virtual Sims provide a psychologically safe environment, and the opportunity to “do it again”. HFS has its drawbacks, there is a dearth of qualified simulation facilitators.

The high fidelity patient manikin technology is expensive and requires ongoing maintenance. Most importantly the technology has limitations in depicting realistic features and symptomatology, what you gain in dimensionality you lose in dynamic imagery (Gonzalez et al. 2020). One area that requires additional exploration is how to effectively debrief students in the virtual sim. If you use the virtual simulation for the convenience of remote asynchronous learning it is a challenge to have meaningful, in-time debrief.

Explaining these added benefits of virtual simulations, including Sentinel U products, HealthySimulation.com hosted a webinar that focused on emerging ideas on the use of virtual simulations to enhance nursing curricula and learning outcomes. Presented by Dr. Laura Gonzalez, PhD, APRN, CNE, CHSE-A, ANEF, FAAN, presentation learning objectives are to:

  • Provide an overview of virtual simulation.
  • Describe Virtual Simulation in clinical curriculum (replacement, entry to HFS or clinical, end of semester, exam prep).
  • List advantages of Virtual Simulation.

More About Sentinel U

Sentinel U, formerly Healthcare Learning Innovations, is an e-learning company that works to meet the evolving needs of healthcare education and training by providing simulation-based technologies and virtual learning tools. Sentinel U was created by the leadership at American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University, an online, regionally accredited college exclusively focused on nursing and healthcare programs. As a pioneer in online nurse education, American Sentinel College recognized the challenges confronting healthcare — including nursing students’ lack of access to quality clinical placements — and built Sentinel U’s virtual clinicals to address this problem.

Founded in 2013, Sentinel U helps advance nursing academic education and healthcare professional training through virtual clinicals that are engaging, effective, and economic. Aligning outcomes with AACN BSN Essentials, QSEN Competencies, and NCLEX categories, Sentinel U provides nursing learners and practicing nurses with online simulations that are convenient to safely practice healthcare and patient scenarios anywhere, at any time, while earning virtual clinical hours.

All virtual simulations and clinicals are designed by Sentinel U’s Nursing faculty to help ensure that users can confidently and seamlessly map directly to AACN essentials, QSEN competencies, and NCLEX categories. According to Sentinel U, learners benefit from robust learning experiences that independent research has shown to be effective in achieving required competencies.

The goals of Sentinel U’s digital solutions are to sharpen clinical reasoning, decision-making skills, and critical thinking competency while facing realistic patient encounters. They can also be used to practice community health and population health in a risk-free environment, and engage in realistic patient encounters across healthcare simulation settings.

Learn More About Sentinel U

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