Patterns of Communicating with High Fidelity Patient Simulators

Monday, 30 July 2012: 2:15 PM

Judy K. Anderson, PhD
School of Nursing, Viterbo University, LaCrosse, WI
Kimberly Nelson, MS, MSN
School of Nursing, Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI

Learning Objective 1: Identify prevalent communication patterns exhibited by students when communicating with a high fidelity patient simulator

Learning Objective 2: Reflect on opportunities to integrate therapeutic communication experiences into HF patient simulation scenarios and debriefing sessions


The purpose of this study was to explore patterns of communicating with high fidelity (HF) patient simulators. Therapeutic communication is an essential skill for nurses working in any setting.  Opportunities to develop this skill are essential to improve comfort and refine competence in communication techniques.  High fidelity patient simulators are increasingly being utilized as a teaching-learning strategy. Their effectiveness for developing expertise in critical thinking/problem-solving, clinical skills, and teamwork is documented in the literature.  The literature also provides evidence of professional communication skill-building, both intra- and interdisciplinary. Less prevalent in the literature is research on the use of HF simulation and therapeutic communication skills. 


Upon IRB approval and participant informed consent, recordings were made of a scenario consisting of a 64-year-old patient experiencing burns to her face and chest.  A total of 25 recordings, inclusive of 71 senior nursing students, were observed to identify patterns of communication during a 20-minute simulation. Thematic analysis identified categories of data and patterns emerged and were refined.


Three patterns were identified: focusing on tasks, communicating-in-action, and being therapeutic. Sub-themes included missing opportunities, relying on informing, viewing the small picture, speaking in “medical tongues,” feeling uncomfortable, and offering choices…okay?


This study examined patterns of communicating with HF patient simulators identifying minimal use of therapeutic communication.  Findings support the need for continued emphasis on integrating communication skills into scenario development and debriefing.  A limitation to HF patient simulators in communication skill development is the lack of non-verbal cues, which may have served as a limitation of this study.  A need exists for additional research on HF patient simulators for enhancing skills in therapeutic communication.  Communication is an outcome measured by many education programs and is an important aspect of patient satisfaction surveys, highlighting the importance of this study.