Virtual Gaming as an Effective Pedagogy in Teaching Critical Decision-Making

Monday, 22 July 2013

Gail K. Baumlein, PhD, RN, CNS, CNE, ANEF
College of Health and Public Administration, Franklin University, Columbus, OH

Learning Objective 1: Discuss gaming theory and the application of serious virtual gaming to clinical practice applications.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss the use of virtual games to support critical thinking and decision-making in nursing education.

The use of simulation in nursing education has grown exponentially in recent years. Literature supports the use of virtual clinical simulation and serious gaming to provide realistic clinical experiences for nursing students (Dutile, Wright, & Beauchesne, 2011; Jeffries, 2010; Skiba, 2008). Gaming theory supports the use of virtual gaming, and is used extensively in medical training as an effective pedagogy in teaching critical thinking skills (Haferkamp, Kraemer, Linehan, & Schembri, 2011). Accrediting bodies cite the need for learning activities that allow nursing students to demonstrate professional competencies. With the proliferation of online nursing programs, especially for post-licensure nurses returning to school, the need for alternative clinical practice experiences has escalated. 

The purpose of this project was to examine the use of a virtual disaster game in a community course in an online RN-BSN program, asking the question, “Do virtual clinical practice experiences support clinical judgment and decision-making skills in providing care during emergency situations?”  Students participated in a robust virtual disaster game, where they encountered a community that faced an impending flood.  Throughout the simulation, students made critical decisions, allocating community resources such as housing, schools, hospitals, natural and man-made barriers, training, and disaster alert systems. At the end of the timed exercise, the flood waters encompassed the community. Based upon the decision of the participant, the community either suffered minimal damage from the flood, or was severely damaged with regard to the loss of lives and homes. The student received immediate feedback, and could repeat the game in order to attain a more positive outcome of the scenario. 

Project outcomes measured student critical thinking, decision-making, and self-assessment of learning and confidence. Findings indicated that virtual clinical practice experiences support clinical judgment and decision-making skills, and provide a relevant pedagogical strategy for effective clinical practice applications in nursing education.