Let's be honest for a moment and think about how effective our task trainers and high-fidelity simulators are in promoting the practice of effective communication. Unfortunately, I'm sure that most of us can admit to times when we have allowed this most important piece of patient interaction to fall by the wayside in our efforts to promote critical thinking, clinical decision-making, and clinical skills performance in our learners.
On the other end of the simulation spectrum, we have patient actors (also known as standardized patients or simulated participants) who can help solve this problem. While live patient actors allow us to focus on the necessary communication skills, we struggle to integrate the clinical skills practice that is necessary, too. So, what is a simulationist to do?
Tuzer, Dinc, and Elcin (2016) found the knowledge level of undergraduate nursing students to be significantly higher with the use of standardized patients in comparison to high-fidelity simulators, while student performance in the clinical setting improved equally with both teaching modalities. Naturally, inquiring minds now ask, "How do we integrate both best practices?".
Cowperthwait, Campagnola, Doll, Downs, Hott, Kelly, Montoya, Bucha, Wang, & Buckley (2015) used a wearable tracheostomy overlay (chest plate) system with standardized patients and found significantly more positive clinical interaction and self-correction results in undergraduate nursing students with this method as compared to the traditional teaching method using a manikin to teach assessment and care of a patient with a tracheostomy. Now known as Avtrach, this innovation bridges the gap between standardized patients and technology, allowing learners to practice communication skills with a nonverbal patient.
Cowperthwait, A., Campagnola, N., Doll, E., Downs, R., Hott, N., Kelly, S., Montoya, A., Bucha, A., Wang, L., & Buckley, J. (2015). Tracheostomy overlay system: An effective learning device using standardized patients. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 11, 253-258.
Tuzer, H., Dinc, L., & Elcin, M. (2016). The effects of using high-fidelity simulators and standardized patients on the thorax, lung, and cardiac examination skills of undergraduate nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 45, 120-125.