Simulated Experience Working with Learning Disabled Improves Competence

Educators and professionals who work closely with learning-disabled individuals must attend to a range of emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. Health-care staff members receive training to meet the needs of many different psychological and physical disabilities but are often ill-equipped when they are presented with real-life situations. Many undereducated health-care workers can actually harm the people under their care owing to their lack of awareness, which can lead to intolerance, frustration, and even discrimination. To increase the skills and abilities of health-care providers, educators have implemented virtual scenarios and simulated experiences. Virtual training has received some recognition as being effective; however, few studies have looked at how simulated experiences influence growth and knowledge in health-care staff members.

To find out how trainees feel about simulated experiences and whether they actually achieve positive results, Marie O’Boyle-Duggan, LD, of the Department of Learning Disability and Mental Health Nursing at England’s Birmingham City University recently conducted a study that involved 173 health-care students. She assessed the participants as they engaged with a simulated learning-disabled patient. Each participant was provided with the opportunity to conduct one task with the patient and then receive both peer and supervisor feedback.

O’Boyle-Duggan found that the students reported increased levels of self-confidence and competence after participating in the simulation. Of particular significance was the support provided by the peers and supervisors during the study. “Staff experience positive outcomes if they have been able to manage the emotional effects of their work using emotional support,” said O’Boyle-Duggan. When inexperienced students are placed in clinical settings, they often do not have the opportunity to reflect on their actions or receive evaluations without directly affecting a client. When this occurs, students become easily frustrated and lose the valuable opportunity to gain the additional knowledge, insight, and education that serve to strengthen their skills. The findings of this study add support for the use of simulation for health-care students in training to meet the needs of individuals with learning disabilities.

O’Boyle-Duggan, M., Grech, J. D., Brandt, R. (2012). Effectiveness of live simulation of patients with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Nursing Education, 51.6, 334-342.

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  • Leslie


    June 12th, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    Sure the simulated experiences could be a real help to these health care providers who could aloso be working closely with LD students. However, what could always work even better would be to let them work with a teacher in an actual classroom and have the teacher supervise that interaction too. Don’t get me wrong- simulated experiences are good in that they can prepare you for situations that you may not have previously considered. But aren’t real life situations even better? Those are totally unscripted and can really have you thinking on your feet. You will get a real taste of what working with real LD students will be like and whether you think that this is something that you will be able to handle.

  • DuPree


    June 12th, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    There may not always be a classroom setting available, but these simulations could reallt add to the overall education and breadth of experience for those who are genuinely interested in working with this community. While simulations may not be quite that same as the real thing, it at least offers a chance for someone to become familiar with many of the possibilities that they could face as well as give them the chance to work through potential solutions to these problems.

  • E.Q


    June 12th, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    its always gr8 to have simulated training.coz no matter how much u teach them theres nothing like having practical experience n the feeling of having been in that pressure situation before.

  • bret


    June 13th, 2012 at 4:30 AM

    Good to see that it did increase the self confidence of those in the simulated learning environments. Sometimes the biggest key that is missing when it comes down to being in the classroom and working with these students is having a strong sense of self and a knowledge that what you are doing is important and affecting learners in a positive and meaningful way. If you don’t have the self confidence to be able to know that then that is a lost chance for making an impact.

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