February 27, 2009

VUSN to study platforms for simulated learning

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Betsy Weiner, Ph.D., R.N.

VUSN to study platforms for simulated learning

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing was recently awarded a $1.6 million, three-year grant from Health Resources Services Administration's (HRSA) Innovative Nurse Education Technologies (INET) Program for the next step in simulation software management.

When completed, portions may look a lot like popular gaming systems such as Wii, Xbox or PlayStation.

Research shows that all of Tennessee's nursing schools have some sort of simulation capabilities, ranging from modest task trainers to high-fidelity mannequins. Unfortunately, most Tennessee nursing schools lack trained faculty to use simulation to its fullest potential. At the same time, the national nursing faculty shortage and a rise in nursing school applicants is forcing educators to look at new tools.

“We have simulation experts at VUSN in areas such as faculty debriefing, but most schools aren't that fortunate,” said Betsy Weiner, Ph.D., R.N., senior associate dean for Informatics at the School of Nursing. “It almost takes a champion at each nursing school to help others see the benefits.”

Weiner's vision for writing this grant focused on helping nurse faculty to better manage the simulation experience with their students. She and her team want to develop a dashboard for educators that helps them measure their own progress in meeting educational competencies related to simulation management. Long term, this dashboard could provide the same intelligence to nursing students so that simulation can be better integrated into the curriculum rather than a piecemeal approach that is so often used by many schools.

“The unique thing is that we decided to use the Second Life environment for one or more of the simulations,” said Weiner.

Second Life is a three-dimensional online world where participants create a visual model of themselves (an avatar) and participate in a community, such as nursing simulation. Weiner's group will create different scenarios using the 3-D graphics and incorporate video of high-fidelity simulators, and perhaps even patients, to help role-play.

Students will be active in the virtual reality world at the same time and will be assigned roles. One module may have an online lecture hall while another may be focused on simulation debriefing. Regardless, Second Life will provide what video streaming and email exchange cannot: a richer, more interactive experience. At the same time, nursing faculty will have an objective evaluation of their own teaching practices.

“I always end up wanting to do something the technology won't allow me to do, so we are looking forward to working out all the details,” said Weiner.

VUSN will be working collaboratively with the University of Kentucky College of Nursing to develop and test the pilot project. The goal is to market the training modules to nursing educators throughout a 16-state area in the South.