- • Simulation has become a valuable educational tool with a variety of devices available for use.
- • Examples of simulation scenarios developed especially for use with psychiatric and mental health nursing students are scarce.
- • A simulation technique with considerable potential for the teaching and learning of essential mental health nursing skills is the narrative virtual patient.
- • Wider use of virtual patient tools would help establish if it is a viable educational device.
This paper discusses the use of simulation in nursing education and training, including potential benefits and barriers associated with its use. In particular, it addresses the hitherto scant application of diverse simulation devices and dedicated simulation scenarios in psychiatric and mental health nursing. It goes on to describe a low-cost, narrative-based virtual patient simulation technique which has the potential for wide application within health and social care education. An example of the implementation of this technology in a web-based pilot course for acute mental health nurses is given. This particular virtual patient technique is a simulation type ideally suited to promoting essential mental health nursing skills such as critical thinking, communication and decision making. Furthermore, it is argued that it is particularly amenable to e-learning and blended learning environments, as well as being an apt tool where multilingual simulations are required. The continued development, implementation and evaluation of narrative virtual patient simulations across a variety of health and social care programmes would help ascertain their success as an educational tool.