“Mental health simulation is an interactive, experiential type of learning that has been shown to help nurses prepare for real-life situations, particularly the kinds of challenging experiences they often face in clinical settings,” said Denise A. Soccio, DNP, RN, a McLean nursing professional development specialist. “With mental health simulation, students are much more engaged in what they learn.”
Soccio advocated for mental health simulation, or “SIM,” during a McLean Grand Rounds lecture delivered on Thursday, October 28. Part of the McLean Forum series, the presentation discussed the history of simulated training methods, presented research findings attesting to SIM’s effectiveness as a learning approach, and offered a real-time demonstration of how SIM can provide effective nursing education.
What Is SIM?
According to Soccio, SIM is “a technique, device, or activity that aims to authentically recreate, imitate, or amplify characteristics, processes, and experiences of the real world for the purposes of teaching, acquiring, and assessing skills and attitudes.”
The aviation, space, and nuclear industries, along with the military, have long used simulators for training, Soccio reported. In the 1960s, medical schools adapted simulation training techniques, which led to the creation of the human patient simulator. The anesthesia simulation environment was developed in the 1980s. In recent years, simulation has been increasingly studied—and adopted—by the mental health field.
Soccio stated that studies conducted over the past 10 years—including her own work at Regis College—show that practitioners can learn communication skills, improve psychiatric assessments, gain experience in de-escalation, and more through mental health SIM.
These studies, she said, show that students “learn better through active experience and interaction versus passive listening.” She explained that the experiential learning offered by SIM is relatable to real-life clinical scenarios and can lead to increased knowledge retention.
Soccio cited one report suggesting that high-quality simulation can be used as a replacement for up to 50% of traditional clinical hours for pre-licensure nursing curricula.