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Virtual Simulation Points the Way to Hybrid Model of Learning

As COVID-19 mushroomed into a global public health crisis, forcing colleges and universities to shutter classrooms, there was a mad scramble to move higher education online. Nursing education was arguably among the best prepared for this sudden shift, with time-tested teaching strategies and tools for virtual curriculum, instruction, and student assessment already in place in both classroom and clinical educational settings. So, what does a move to online education portend for the future of nursing education? 

Beverly-Malone-PhD- RN-FAAN-League-of-Nursing

Beverly Malone, Ph.D., RN, FAAN

President and CEO, National League for Nursing

Forecast for the Future: Technology Trends in Nursing Education,” a recent survey by Wolters Kluwer Health and the National League for Nursing of administrators, deans, directors, and faculty in nursing education programs predicts the classroom of the future will be a hybrid learning environment. While investment in and development of new technology will remain strong during the next few years, in-person learning is anticipated to also expand by incorporating existing and Next-Gen technologies, including novel virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR).

Fortunately, advances in technology have spurred the development of online learning modules, tools for educators to evaluate and assess student mastery of abstract concepts, and virtual simulations that effectively facilitated clinical training, and instilled critical thinking skills essential to healthcare delivery and positive patient outcomes. 

Virtual experience

While the heart of nursing will always be the nurse-patient relationship, there are multiple levels of patient care, not all of them requiring in-person learning to be of value. For example, focusing on learning a skill set through virtual reality, prior to encountering actual patients, will mean that pre-licensure students will be that much more practice-ready once they enter the nursing workforce. 

Another benefit of virtual learning is its widening of the pool for clinical preceptors in remote locations nationwide and around the world. Absent the limitations of geography, it’s been easier to match students with preceptors whose profiles are compatible. 

With its outsize impact on communities of color, the pandemic showed that the social determinants of health — the daily conditions in which people live and work — take center stage in initiatives aiming for social and economic justice for historically underserved populations. Both live and virtual educational experiences can also help close those well-documented gaps in care and lead to a better, healthier future for everyone.

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