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Theatre Students to Act in Real-Life Clinical Scenarios for Nursing Students with New Grant Award

Theatre Students to Act in Real-Life Clinical Scenarios for Nursing Students with New Grant Award
January 26, 2021


Academics | Student Success

Curry College announced today that the School of Nursing received a $129,038 grant to build a unique simulated participant program that trains theatre students to act as patients in real-life clinical scenarios allowing nursing students to practice critical communication, clinical judgment, and decision-making skills in a safe environment. The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Led in partnership by the School of Nursing and the Communication program, the interdisciplinary program will start with the launch of a new healthcare theatre course. This spring, roughly 18 communication and nursing students will learn how to perform standardized real-life healthcare scenarios acting as patients, family members, and healthcare workers. The “patients” simulate symptoms with the use of Avkin Wearable Technology to create a more realistic complex medical problem. Potential scenarios could include caring for a tracheostomy patient who has difficulty communicating or calming an anxious patient with a chest tube. 

Research suggests that the use of a simulated participant (SP), the role played by a human in a simulation, can effectively teach students clinical judgment, professional communication, and active listening. Standardized patients, with their ability to give nonverbal cues and realistic responses, show to be the superior simulation modality for teaching communication skills, a critical competency to delivering patient care. Compared to manikin-based simulation, one study found that students participating in SP simulation were more likely to explain the procedure to their patient, ask questions of their patient, and offer reassurance. Students also reported increased confidence and satisfaction with their learning experience.

“The grant award from the Davis Educational Foundation will allow us to increase the use of SP simulation and expand our ability to provide a consistent, engaging, and authentic learning experience to prepare students for the complexities of practice,” says School of Nursing Dean Dr. Desirée Hensel. “Establishing a simulated participant program is especially critical now as hospitals continue to reduce the number of clinical placement spots for students during the pandemic. High-quality simulation-based learning can keep students on track to develop the clinical competencies needed to become qualified nursing professionals. It is essential that the pipeline of nurses is maintained, and graduation is not delayed given the nation’s urgent healthcare needs.”

The new simulated patient program will expand the School of Nursing’s simulation-based learning practices which account for approximately 40 percent of its clinical education. Beginning in the fall, the nursing program will integrate at least one SP simulation within each of its eight clinical courses using best practice standards set by the International Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. The launch of the unique program this year makes Curry’s nursing program one of the few programs in New England to offer such a program.

“The prospect for authentic, experiential, and active learning in an interdisciplinary course has exciting potential. Learning situations that include the development of a variety of theatre skills, as well as communication concepts, immeasurably help develop insights in constructive interpersonal communication,” says Marcy Holbrook, director, Drama Center. “Theatre students will have an opportunity to develop their craft, practice role-playing, as well as provide a way to market their talents. Nursing students’ intuitive approach will strengthen their ability to understand their patients. Additionally, this course will address the need for diversity and cultural sensitivity. Coupled with the medical insights, this course supports the fostering of the whole student.”