The Role of Simulation in Promoting Interdisciplinary Communication for Nursing and Medical Students

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Deanna L. Reising, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC1
Douglas E. Carr, MD, FACS2
Roberta A. Shea, MSN, RN, CCNS1
Jason M. King, BSN, RN3
1School of Nursing, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
2School of Medicine/Medical Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
3Clinical Informatics, Bloomington Hospital, Bloomington, IN

Learning Objective 1: Describe how simulation can be used in interdisciplinary encounters.

Learning Objective 2: Identify key components to evaluating interdisciplinary communication.

Simulation is a method that is growing significantly worldwide to enhance both students’ and health care practitioners’ experiences before encountering such patients in the “real world.”  While simulation has been used primarily to promote critical thinking skills around specific psychomotor and scenario-based competencies, little work has been accomplished with regard to communication skills.  In 2002, the Institute of Medicine made a call for increased emphasis on interdisciplinary communication in response to published reports regarding patient safety errors—errors frequently linked to breakdowns in communication among healthcare practitioners.  Similarly, the Joint Commission sets yearly National Patient Safety Goals.  Goal 2 is “Improve the effectiveness of communication among caregivers.”  Designing “real life” scenarios and evaluation strategies is greatly lacking in nursing literature, and the science is in its infancy.  Researchers in the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine designed a pilot study involving third year nursing students in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program (n=41) and second year medical students (n=19).  The purpose of the study was to identify key indicators with regard to interdisciplinary communication skills, in the context of Advanced Cardiac Life Skills, comparing traditional round table discussion and SimMan®, a high fidelity simulation tool.  Results of the study indicate that students in the simulation strategy reported higher levels of stress, and both groups reported a heightened sense of their role on the interdisciplinary team.  Further, a communication rubric tool was developed for use in future studies to more objectively evaluate communication skills.  Subsequent studies are in progress to test this tool, and extend interdisciplinary learning experiences.

Institute of Medicine (2002).  Who Will Keep the Public Healthy: Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Centure?  National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

The Joint Commission (2009).  Retrieved at: