Simulation Teaches Nursing and Medical School Students Teamwork

Apr. 28, 2010

When treating critically ill patients, success hinges on more than just having the knowledge necessary to save them. Health care providers also need to make quick decisions and work as a cohesive team. This week and next, students from the University of Rochester School of Nursing and the School of Medicine and Dentistry will participate in interdisciplinary patient simulations to learn how to communicate better in high-stress situations.

A total of 168 students—50 first-and-second-year nurse practitioner students and 118 third-year medical students—will go through an exercise designed to teach them more about each other’s roles. Teams consisting of one nursing and two medical students will have about 20 minutes to treat a critical patient with an unknown condition. Utilizing the School of Nursing’s high-fidelity SimMan, a sophisticated patient simulator that can mimic human medical conditions, and with just a few details about their patient, the students will have to count on their diagnostic reasoning skills to stabilize him. Moreover, they will have to work together and learn quickly how to function as an effective team.

“Simulation is an important component of health care education,” said Lisa H. Norsen, Ph.D., R.N., A.C.N.P., director of the School of Nursing’s master’s programs. “The chance to problem solve collaboratively in a safe environment where mistakes can be made and learned from is so valuable.”

The students will be videotaped throughout the experience and will review their simulations after they finish. A debriefing follows as they discuss what they learned, assess whether or not they met their goals, and provide input to Jeffrey Rubenstein, M.D., M.B.A., professor of pediatrics, who developed this interdisciplinary experience with Norsen and Linda Spillane, M.D., assistant dean for medical simulation at the School of Medicine.

“In talking with students after the simulation, I hope to see that they are coming away with respect and appreciation for the different roles people play as part of a health care team as well as a better understanding of how to work across professions,” said Rubenstein.

Simulations are widely used in both the University’s nursing and medical schools to give students freedom to practice valuable clinical skills and work through emergency scenarios in a safe environment. They are regarded as one of the best ways for students to practice cognitive and technical skills. But this joint simulation enhances the educational experience even more.

“We often train health care professionals in silos and then expect people to come together and easily perform as a team,” said Spillane. “Hopefully by training together early and frequently, medical students and nurses will know each other’s strengths and develop respect for each other as colleagues. That will translate to better patient care which is the ultimate goal.”