Between managing budgets, revising curricula, staffing and competing for students, nursing program administrators make a lot of critical decisions. The challenge of balancing premium education against operational costs includes answering these questions:
- How can nursing programs offer experiences students need at a cost that’s manageable for them and feasible for the program?
- What are those experiences and are they effective?
Often, technology can help. Virtual clinical Simulations and Scenarios are being included in nursing programs, as blended learning becomes recognized as an effective teaching methodology. One of the reasons we’ve chosen to offer our products through a Cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platform is the cost advantages. The technology helps make them less expensive than most textbooks, they can be purchased by students or colleges and updated versions can be distributed in seconds, another plus.
Georgia Highlands College, featured in one of our case studies, is a school that integrated Sentinel City® and Sentinel Town® into their community health nursing program. Cynthia Carter, MSN, Assistant Professor at Georgia Highlands says that the virtual simulations provide an immersive learning experience that can be more effective than writing papers for developing critical thinking skills. She eliminated textbooks for the course, then complemented online assignments with articles she found through research, saving students money while also including traditional assignments, which offer another teaching avenue.
Practicing on manikins and using screen-based virtual scenarios to help develop clinical judgment skills can result in fewer errors when students are working with real patients. Risk is reduced, of course, and so are the costs associated with correcting mistakes.
More effective teaching means there is less need for nurse educators to devote time to underperforming students, and reduction in supplementary clinical rotations. Not only are costs averted, but teachers also have more time to spend with all their students, other duties and their lives outside of the classroom.
With a little research, you can find studies on the viability of experiential learning in nursing education. One instance is Experiential Learning: Using Virtual Simulation in an Online RN-BSN Program by Henny Breen and Melissa Jones of Linfield College Portland’s Nursing & Online and Continuing Education (link). In their analysis, they evaluated the impact of virtual learning activities included in the school’s Integrated Experiential Learning course. That course combines preceptor-led clinical experience, professional development activities and experiential learning activities using a virtual community.
Like many other studies have shown, online course content helps overcome clinical placement challenges at a fraction of the cost, and it “meets the experiential learning needs of adult learners who need flexibility given the demands on their time and the shortage of clinical sites.” Breen and Jones also say that online simulations meet goals for developing “abilities in leadership, health policy, system improvement, research and evidence-based practice, teamwork, collaboration, and a greater orientation towards community-based care.”
One Last Question
Healthcare education is cost-intensive. Making decisions about the elements in any program, including instructors, simulation labs and investments in new teaching tools, calls for investigation and measuring as best possible the value of the expenses against the outcome.
Yet another question comes to light: How can we help you evaluate whether our virtual clinical simulation and scenarios are a good choice for your students, budget, and mission?
Please get in touch. We have answers.