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Keywords:

  • clinical skills;
  • experimental design;
  • nurse education;
  • Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE);
  • questionnaire;
  • simulation

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to present the results of a study designed to determine the effect of scenario-based simulation training on nursing students’ clinical skills and competence.

Background.  Using full-scale, realistic, medical simulation for training healthcare professionals is becoming more and more common. Access to this technology is easier than ever before with the opening of several simulation centres throughout the world and the availability on the market of more sophisticated and affordable patient simulators. However, there is little scientific evidence proving that such technology is better than more traditional techniques in the education of, for example, undergraduate nursing students.

Methods.  A pretest/post-test design was employed with volunteer undergraduate students (n = 99) from second year Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing programme in United Kingdom using a 15-station Objective Structured Clinical Examination. Students were randomly allocated to either a control or an experimental group. The experimental group, as well as following their normal curriculum, were exposed to simulation training. Subsequently, all students were re-tested and completed a questionnaire. The data were collected between 2001 and 2003.

Results.  The control and experimental groups improved their performance on the second Objective Structured Clinical Examination. Mean test scores, respectively, increased by 7·18 and 14·18 percentage points. The difference between the means was statistically significant (P < 0·001). However, students’ perceptions of stress and confidence, measured on a 5-point Likert scale, was very similar between groups at 2·9 (1, not stressful; 5, very stressful) and 3·5 (1, very confident; 5, not confident) for the control group, and 3·0 and 3·4 for the experimental group.

Conclusions.  Intermediate-fidelity simulation is a useful training technique. It enables small groups of students to practise in a safe and controlled environment how to react adequately in a critical patient care situation. This type of training is very valuable to equip students with a minimum of technical and non-technical skills before they use them in practice settings.