Dalhousie University School Study Shows Now is the Time to Get on Board with Virtual Learning for Community and Population Health

A pilot study at Dalhousie University School of Nursing was conducted last year to answer this research question: “Is there a difference in student perceptions of their learning outcomes between clinical placements with a virtual simulation, a community agency, or neighborhood?”

The results were published in the June 2020 issue of International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship. “Gett’n on the bus: evaluation of Sentinel City® 3.0 virtual simulation in community/population health clinical placement,” authored by Dalhousie nurse educators Andrea Chircop, Ph.D., RN and Shelley Cobbett, Ed.D., RN, GN.T. describes how they sought to determine if virtual simulations can help overcome clinical placement challenges.

Research Question

“Is there a difference in student perceptions of their learning outcomes between clinical placements with a virtual simulation, a community agency, or neighborhood?”

Chircop and Cobbett developed the pilot to run in conjunction with the Population Health Nursing course first-year nursing students take at Dalhousie. The goals were to test the value of virtual learning simulations, facilitate the integration of theory and practice, and “inform future planning and design of community clinical learning opportunities for undergraduate students.”

Program Structure and Results

We were honored when Dr. Chircop took the time to present the findings. It’s important to note that she began her presentation by saying, “First of all, we declare no conflict of interest. We have not been paid by Sentinel U for this study. It is completely independent.”

In the webinar and report, you’ll find details on how Sentinel City helped learners gain understanding of population health assessment basics as well as data collection, establishing relationships with community members, advocating for health equity and other learning outcomes.

You can download a PDF version of the “Gett’n on the bus…” here, courtesy of De Gruyter publishing. But before you do, here’s a look at the background and the overview of survey results, pulled directly from the report.

Project Design: Safe learning experience that provided a good overview of the population health assessment.

  • 8 Clinical groups with 12 students each (96 direct entry & 96 advanced standing students)
  • Students were randomly assigned to one of the three clinical placements: Sentinel City, agency (student health center, seniors’ residence, international students center) or neighborhood (low socio-economic status)
  • 5 hours/week for 8 weeks

Survey: 34 questions structured according to the following content domains.

  • Knowledge/Critical Thinking
  • Practice
  • Communication/Collaboration
  • Legal, ethical & professional accountability
  • Leadership

Overall Results: Data detailing each group’s response to the survey questions are found in the report. In summary…

  • The Sentinel City group indicated the highest confidence that they were able to meet the course learning objectives, with the community agency group and the geographical neighborhood placement group both indicating less confidence in meeting course outcomes.
  • Student feedback indicates that a combination of virtual simulation and agency or neighborhood settings would be ideal. The students felt that all groups should be exposed to Sentinel City before moving into agencies or neighborhoods.

You Can Get on the Bus, Too

Faculty and nursing program administrators make evidence-based decisions about the course content and experience they deliver to students. The three-phase study gives them confidence that virtual learning can provide meaningful, quality community clinical practice opportunities.

With Sentinel City, those opportunities start when learners hop on a bus to explore the virtual city we’ve developed, jump off at 15 different locations (like the Health Clinic, Soup Kitchen or ABC Day Care) in four distinct neighborhoods, and interact with citizens from many walks of life, even Sentinel City’s mayor. Assignments include a windshield survey, subsystems assessments, a home visit and population-focused interventions.

Pandemic related assignments were recently added. An advantage of online learning is the ability to adapt the content for emerging healthcare issues and customize assignments for specific audiences. In fact, we are working with a team of Canadian nurse educators and community health nurses to develop a Canadian version of Sentinel City that integrates Indigenous and Canadian specific data and content.

Ready to get on the bus? Contact us to start a two-week trial and see for yourself how Sentinel City and our suite of clinical simulations and scenarios can help students and practicing healthcare professionals blend virtual and traditional pedagogies for nursing skills excellence. If you’d prefer a personal demo, contact us at 800-749-2427 or Solutions@SentinelU.com. To learn more about Sentinel U™, explore our website.