Lecture – The Effectiveness of Mental Health Training Simulation on Learning Outcomes

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Presented by Denise A. Soccio, DNP, RN, McLean Hospital – McLean Forum lecture

Studies show that mental health simulation or “SIM” is an effective form of training for mental health nurses.

Soccio defines SIM as “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.”

Watch now to learn more about:

  • How mental health simulation is used to train mental health professionals
  • The characteristics of effective SIM-based training
  • Two real-time SIM interactions involving a mental health provider and a trained actor, with Soccio providing commentary and guidance on the exercise
  • Recent research into the effectiveness of SIM in mental health training as well as topics for future study

In mental health SIM, students often work with trained actors who serve as live “simulated patients.” Scenarios and scripts are prepared in advance, and the students interact with the simulated patients to work through various real-word evaluation and treatment scenarios.

Soccio reports that studies conducted over the past 10 years show that practitioners can learn communication skills, improve psychiatric assessments, gain experience in de-escalation, and more through mental health SIM.

The studies show that students “learn better through active experience and interaction versus passive listening,” she states. The experiential learning offered by SIM is relatable to real-life clinical scenarios.

Studies also demonstrate that this approach results in increased knowledge retention. One report cited by Soccio suggests that high-quality simulation can be used as a replacement for up to 50% of traditional clinical hours for pre-licensure nursing curriculum.

Expanding on this research, she presents two, live-action, real-time SIM teaching scenarios. In each case, a mental health practitioner works with a patient (played by an actor) to work through a mental health issue. As the scenario unfolds, Soccio comments on the interaction and offers advice for a more effective experience.

According to Soccio, research studies and student evaluations provide evidence that mental health SIM can provide “meaningful, valuable learning experiences and can be used to evaluate clinician competency.” However, she states, “we have gaps in the research in terms of transferability of knowledge and skills to actual practice,” and more research is needed.