Taking ‘simulated learning’ to the next level

Aged care residents at a Western Australian facility are playing a hands-on role in the training of nursing students by simulating patient interactions.

Aged care residents at a Western Australian facility are playing a hands-on role in the training of nursing students by simulating patient interactions.

A former nursing home at Joondanna in Perth has been recycled as a training facility for students of nursing, medicine and social work to practice caring for older people.

Helen Jack volunteers to simulate patient interactions with the UWA students
Helen Jack volunteers to simulate patient interactions with the UWA students

The building is located beside two Bethanie aged care facilities and a group of independent living units, and residents from the nearby facilities volunteer their time to act out real-life patient interactions with the students twice a week.

The clinical learning environment for the University of Western Australia students includes a 12-bed ward, general practice and nurse practitioner clinics and a simulated community flat. All are invaluable in teaching students the skills and attributes required to provide care in a variety of settings, said UWA Associate Professor Rosemary Saunders.

“The patient-volunteers, both men and women, are authentic real people. They are given a scripted scenario but they also ad lib as their role demands,” said Professor Saunders. “They simulate problems like a broken hip, diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure painful knees and legs and other injuries. One faked a cardiac arrest.”

An initial group of resident volunteers started in 2012; while many are still participating, others have joined too, said Professor Saunders.

Helen Jack, aged 84, has been a volunteer since the start of the program. “It’s been a good experience for participants. We all joined in and we look forward to it each week,” said Ms Jack. “Little things are important. For example I want a glass when I’m given bottle of water. I don’t like drinking out of a bottle. And if you are unable to help yourself clearing away quickly after meal is important.

“I tell the students if they have forgotten anything… But it can be difficult to act if you haven’t had a particular illness.”

Susannah, one of the students, said it was valuable “just to chat” to the residents and discover what they considered to be a good nurse. “We also we hear what busy lives they all lead,” she said.

Professor Saunders said none of the participants had previous hospital experience. Most were studying for a Master of Nursing degree. The course was designed for graduates in an unrelated subject who want to get into nursing.

“We are learning as we go. One spin off has been increased socialisation between older people. The student interaction is an important topic of conversation. The residents come from different cultural backgrounds and have a wide range of physical and cognitive ability. The students learn to relate to individual differences between residents,” she said.

A project reference group was established, made up of eight residents from Bethanie, two staff and two students. Suggestions from the group have included a newsletter, information sheets and the development of a feedback tool for the students after the clinical activities.

The residents suggested that the feedback should focus on the caring aspects of nursing such as touch and communication, which would be a valuable contribution to student learning.

In recognition of their efforts, the residents won the 2014 Bethanie Medallion for volunteers in aged care, as well as the overall Bethanie Medallion.

Clarification: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the students won the 2014 Bethanie Medal. 

Tags: aged-care-training, bethanie-aged-care, simulated learning, student nursing, uwa,

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