Empathy is the key to understanding a user’s needs in design. This semester I will utilize empathy to gain the perspective of nursing students to assist me with the design of effective simulations. Nursing curriculum standards are now allowing simulation to replace 50% of traditional clinical hours. This change in clinical requirements has opened an opportunity to increase enrollment, but this will require the design of a state-of-the-art simulation program. To successfully establish the purposed program, we must first empathize with students to understand their current clinical experiences and discuss how to translate this into a simulated environment.
To begin the empathy phase of my design I started by deciding the methods in which I would explore the perspective of our students. I started with conversations with our students, faculty, clinical placement coordinator and simulation lab coordinator. Speaking with the aforementioned parties gave me a well-rounded perspective of current practices and thoughts about how future opportunities resonated with each group. I have heard over and over again that students love the current simulations we provide and want more. I have also discovered that the groups find great value in the clinical setting, but realize that not all clinical settings are created equal. Within the clinical setting there is no way to make sure students encounter the same experiences or that they encounter all the experiences faculty feel are necessary to round out their knowledge as a bachelor-prepare nurse. For these reasons, students, faculty and staff agree that additional simulation can provide abundant value while filling in the gaps.
I learned a great deal in my conversations with students regarding the actual simulations themselves. Students explained how they were taken out of their comfort zone and this created a space for learning because it was hard to forget how uncomfortable it was to make a mistake in this environment. Of course, this is our goal with simulation. Memorable learning moments are created in a safe environment where mistakes can be made and discussions can take place without the presence of a real patient. The challenge comes, as many of my conversations have touched on, with creating these simulations to be realistic enough to replicate the clinical setting.
Through observation of current simulations, I discovered that students who were less likely to immerse themselves into the simulation, seemed to take away less from the activity. This realization brings me to think that students may benefit from brief coaching related to acting before entering the simulation. To imitate the student experience, I went through a simulation, and because I am familiar with the scenario, I was able to treat the motionless, yet talking, figure in the bed as a real human being. I believe extra encouragement for students to treat the mannequin, or actor, as a real patient would increase student engagement. Furthermore, coaching students to utilize everything in the room as if the simulated environment were an actual hospital room would improve student performance and, in the long run, patient outcomes.
Empathy is the vehicle to discover the perspectives of my project’s stakeholders and it is my responsibility as the project lead to make sure all sides are given a voice. Conversation, observation and imitation have been the most valuable methods for me in the process of gaining empathy. As we move forward in our design process, we must remember to keep our discoveries of empathy in the forefront of our minds.