The Intersection of Accreditation and Simulation Technology
Written by Suzette Farmer, PhD, RN
Published August 2022
Nursing education has a long history of using simulation for teaching the hands-on skills associated with nursing care such as the insertion of IV lines and foley catheters. Around the turn of the century, the use of simulation technology in nursing education became more pervasive as companies developed human patient simulators designed to mimic “real” patient responses to nursing actions and interventions. As simulation technology became more available, the benefits of simulation as a safe, non-threatening, and experiential learning modality soon became the mantra of nurse educators. Ideally, simulation is seen as a practice-based learning opportunity through which student skills related to decision-making, critical thinking, and teambuilding can be enhanced.
As noted by Aebersold (2018), the use of simulation in nursing education is no longer the purview of those faculty who are “tech savvy” or who have a special interest in the use of technology. The use of simulation technology is an instructional method or an educational approach; these are not reliant on a single type of technology. Simulation technology, such as low- to high-fidelity mannequins, can be used in an in-person teaching environment; while virtual technology, such as immersive virtual reality, can be used in an in-person or independent teaching environment.
Numerous articles have been written about best practices related to the use of simulation and simulation technology in nursing education. However, this article will focus on how the use of simulation technology intersects with the ACEN Standards and Criteria. First, nursing education programs must ensure that nursing students have opportunities for direct, hands-on clinical/practicum learning experiences at the student’s level of preparation as defined by the ACEN1. Simulation and the use of simulation technology can be employed to facilitate student learning and achievement of the identified course or end-of-program student learning outcomes; however, simulation cannot replace all clinical/practicum learning experience opportunities and hours (See the above link and Standard 42). Programs must also ensure that any use of simulation is in accordance with state regulatory agencies and consistent with best practices as identified by their respective professional nursing organizations or credentialing agencies. In addition, to ensure that the use of simulation technology is an effective teaching modality, faculty must engage in ongoing professional development and receive appropriate support for the use of any teaching technology (Standard 2).
In accordance with Standard 3, it is also essential that students be informed of any technological requirements (e.g., computer software) that will be required in the program of study. Students must also be oriented to any technology that is used in the program (e.g., learning and skills laboratories, clinical sites), and they must have access to appropriate technological support to facilitate their learning and success throughout the program of study.
In summary, teaching with simulation technology can be effective and an important method of instruction. When effectively implemented, teaching with simulation technology is student-centered, interactive, engaging, and reflective of real-world experiences; furthermore, it can facilitate student learning and contribute to their preparation for practice (2017 Erykara & Baykara). Nurse administrators and faculty must ensure that all teaching and curricular decisions are based on identified course and end-of-program student learning outcomes and that instructional decisions are intentional and not just based on “well, we have the equipment…we’d better use it.” Faculty and students must also be oriented and trained to effectively use any simulation technology, and support must be provided to ensure that the use of any simulation technology is appropriately employed.
1Note: ACEN definitions mentioned in this article default to those defined by the 2017 Accreditation Manual and the 2017 Standards and Criteria. The 2023 Accreditation Manual and the Glossary within are currently in development.
2Note: All links to a given standard will take you to a list of program types to select which set of the 2017 Standards and Criteria apply best to your program(s). Go here to explore the 2023 Standards and Criteria. Programs can choose to adhere to the 2017 or 2023 Standards and Criteria from January 1, 2023‒December 31, 2023; beginning January 1, 2024, all programs must follow the 2023 Standards and Criteria.