Free Nursing Simulation Scenario Template Portrays Real Patient Experiences

Certified Healthcare Simulation Educators (CHSE) face a multitude of challenges when seeking to utilize the most current evidence-based clinical simulation cases. There are numerous resources available — some free and others available for purchase. Aligning simulation resources with the program curriculum is crucial and should be considered. This article describes a free template for educators to outline real patient experiences that can be replicated in simulation with nursing students.

The most effective healthcare simulations take a considerable amount of time to develop and the process can be cumbersome and rigorous. Having other educators evaluate the simulation case is strongly recommended, despite being very time-consuming. The National League for Nursing (NLN) provides a free Simulation Design Template that can be utilized by educators. Taking steps to ensure that the clinical simulation objectives meet student outcomes is vital and the template is designed to make this process easier.

The NLN template is user-friendly and has an easy-to-fill-in categorization to make the simulation flow smoothly. Utilizing this process along with an example from your own clinical practice, is one way to create a real-life scenario that can be used with nursing students in clinical simulations to improve clinical judgment.

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Nurse educators are always exposed to new knowledge and material regarding new evidence-based practices and literature. Teaching simulation activities using new technology have gained much attention. Virtual simulation cases that are available for purchase is an example. These textbook-style cases have evidence-based content to support them but lack realism to inspire students in preparation for clinical practice.

A study found that only 23% of new graduate nurses are safely able to recognize urgent changes in a patient’s condition and identify appropriate responses to manage critical changes in a patient’s condition (Kavanagh and Sweda, 2017). The nurse educator needs to implement this new mode of learning to help with retention and understanding of nursing knowledge.

Educators will have to design new and innovative ways to deliver this education to students. One of the difficult processes of learning for the nursing student is application in a clinical setting. A number of studies report that graduate nurses feel underprepared with adequate skill levels to perform in real-world clinical practice (as cited by Vichittragoonthavon et al., 2020). Nurse educators need to be more involved in clinical settings to assist with the gap between theory and practice.

The Boyer model, which includes the scholarship of application, is defined as “applying knowledge in community and service activities with the outcomes of benefit to the larger community” (as cited by Limoges et al., 2015). As a nurse educator, partaking in clinical practice will not only bring more realism through simulation into the classroom, but will also enrich student learning. While it is difficult for nursing faculty to teach both theory and clinical simultaneously, a faculty member does not have to teach clinical full time to bring simulations to life. They can sign up once a month for a clinical rotation or even call to schedule a meeting with staff nurses who have been working in that specialty area and do not mind sharing complex patient cases.

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Another suggestion is working together with part-time clinical faculty who have the current clinical expertise to share their experiences in creating content to replicate scenarios for simulation use. The selected scenarios can be a variety of experiences, such as medical errors, teamwork collaboration, and other risk-management situations that can improve patient safety and nursing practice.

Once the CHSE decides to implement their selected personalized patient experience case, they can formulate the scenario by using the NLN template to bring it to fruition in the nursing simulation lab. This will give nursing students optimal practice experiences and also improve the future of nursing care.

One example is from a nurse in the intensive care unit, who shared his experience regarding a patient who was declining and had multiple organ failure. The nurse called the resident and was repeatedly told that there was nothing else that could be done for this patient’s critical state. The ICU nurse’s recommendation was a combination of antibiotic therapy. The nurse continued to advocate for the patient, utilizing the chain of command to consult with the attending physician.

Finally, the nurse was able to get the physician to implement the new interventions, and the patient ultimately improved. This example, which could be replicated in simulation, helps emphasize the important role that nurses play in patient advocacy. Using past patient events by following proper protocols to obtain such data, is important to prevent future adverse events from occurring.

More about the NLN

Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN offers professional development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants and public policy initiatives to all 40,000 individuals and 1,200 institutional members. NLN members represent nursing education programs across the spectrum of medical simulation, higher education, healthcare organizations and agencies.

Founded in 1893 as the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses, the National League for Nursing was the first nursing organization in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NLN boasts a remarkable past, an exceptional present and a shared, transformative future. With purpose, power and passion, the NLN strives to bring the League’s mission and core values to life.

Learn More About Simulation Template Utilization for Nursing


  • Kavanagh, J.M., & Szweda, C. (2017).  A crisis in competency: The strategic and ethical imperative to assessing new graduate nurses’ clinical reasoning. Nursing Education Perspectives, 38(2), 57-62.
  • Limoges, J., Acorn, S., & Osborne, M. (2015). The scholarship of application: Recognizing and promoting nurses’ contribution to knowledge development. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 46(2), 77–82.
  • National League for Nursing. (n.d.). SIRC Resources: SIRC Tools & Tips. Retrieved from
  • Vichittragoonthavon, S., Klunklin, A., Wichaikhum, O., Viseskul, N., & Turale, S. (2020). Essential clinical skill components of new graduate nurses: A qualitative study. Nurse Education in Practice, 44, 102778-102778. 

Today’s article was guest authored by Benjamin Morhan MSN, RN, CHSE, Simulation Innovation Resource Coordinator Health Sciences at Washtenaw Community College.

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