Student Perception of Virtual Standardized Patients

Sunday, 29 October 2017: 11:05 AM

Kristy L. Oden, DNP, MSN, BSN, ADN
Online College of Nursing, University of North Alabama, Florence, AL, USA
Marilyn B. Lee, PhD
College of Nursing, University of North Alabama, Florence, AL, USA
Michelle Nelson, PhD
Anderson School of Nursing, Online Department, University of North Alabama, Florence, AL, USA

Traditionally, when a student, at either the graduate or the undergraduate level, performed a head-to-toe health assessment for their physical assessment course, they utilized a live person. This person might be a friend, family member, or in some cases a volunteer who was either paid or unpaid, but was trained to “act” as a patient in a particular setting (Lin, Chen, Chao & Chen, 2013; Gliva-McConvey, 2013, Jenkins & Schaivone, 2007; Vessey & Huss, 2002). As technology has changed, the use of patient simulators has become recognized as an effective clinical teaching strategy, especially for health related fields (Kirkman, 2013).  In 2012, the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida developed a virtual standardized patient (VSP) that could be utilized for the purpose of undergraduate and graduate nursing health assessment courses.  The limited research available has shown that students’ confidence in health history taking and health assessment on a live patient has improved with use of the virtual patient simulator (Bigelo, Pardee, Kuzma, & Boucher, 2014; Miskovsky & Miller, 2014; Mawhirter & Klainber, 2014). Faculty has also indicated an ability to better evaluate student learners with the use of a virtual patient simulator (Kelley, 2015). Students from a traditional, face-to-face BSN program, a fully online RN to BSN program, and a fully online MSN program were administered an anonymous survey. Sixty-one students completed the survey. Of those 61 students, 42 (68.9%) felt that the virtual patient simulator was comparable to a real patient with eight having neutral feelings and 11 either disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that the experience was comparable to that of a real patient. Additionally, of the 61 participants, only one felt they could not transfer the knowledge that they gleaned from the virtual patient to the clinical setting. When asked if the students were comfortable communicating with the virtual patient, 72% agreed that they were comfortable in their communication. Based on this small study of nursing students, utilization of a virtual patient simulator in a physical assessment course at the graduate and undergraduate level is an effective learning tool.  As technology continues to change, nursing programs continue to encounter limited face-to-face clinical locations, and more and more students seek out online learning, utilization of the virtual patient simulator will increase.