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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