The NHS has a nursing crisis
As of March 2023, there was an 8% vacancy rate across the NHS – that amounts to over 112,000 vacancies, and it is forecasted to grow to between 260,000 and 360,000 by the years 2036 and 2037.
Throughout 2022, data show nursing, in particular, faces a shortage of about 43,000 vacancies, a rate of nearly 11%.
According to the World Health Organization, these shortages – impacting the UK and across the European Region – could amount to a “ticking timebomb” if not adequately and swiftly addressed.
In January 2021, as one piece of the overarching puzzle, revised NMC Recovery Standards were introduced, allowing simulation as an accepted replacement for clinical hours.
£15m Fund for Simulation
In March 2021, the government announced that £15m would be awarded to English universities to invest in new simulated training facilities and technologies for nursing and other health students.
“Examples are given by the government for what the funding could be spent on included virtual reality technology, manikins, role-play activities, and smartphones, tablets or computers”, according to the Nursing Times.
Simulation for Clinical Placement Hours
These standards were designed to help manage the backlog of nursing students who require placement activity. With an increasing need for new nurses in the face of clinical placement capacity issues, the NMC has announced these new allotments as permanent standards.
As such, there is now a clear mandate to use simulation instead of clinical hour replacement, so the next question is, ‘Can you use virtual simulation for clinical placements?’
Can I Use Virtual Simulation for Clinical Hour Replacement?
The short answer to this question is: ‘Yes!’ – virtual reality is included to support students through simulated practice.
This was previously acknowledged in the HEE Simulation Strategy 2020: “Evolving technologies, such as virtual reality, allow learning to be self-guided and personalised, deliverable on a larger scale and hence more efficient in terms of time and cost.”
As such, VR is considered a valid tool for delivering simulation, and the NMC clearly states it, noting: “These methodologies can include…the use of virtual reality to carry out simulated clinical assessments.”
Why choose virtual reality to support simulated clinical placement hours?
Beyond the challenges currently faced with physical simulation practice, placements are no guarantee that students will see all they need to be adequately prepared to practice for particular situations – especially infrequent ones requiring swift, adept clinical decision-making and action.
In virtual reality, every student can experience a clinical situation that could appear one month or ten years into their clinical practice. In this way, students can all receive a fair opportunity to take on a leadership role and make real-time decisions that impact patient care in a safe learning environment. This is just one way VR can assist in standardising the learning process.
As students work their way through a given scenario, actions are tracked, logged, and tagged – decisions made in-scenario not only change the narrative and direction of the simulation but also provide learning opportunities with feedback upon the simulation’s completion.
This provides a level of standardisation in assessment throughout the simulation, and students gain an additional opportunity to engage in deliberate practice and self-reflection on their clinical performance before debriefing with a facilitator or amongst peers.
One might select an experienced VR partner to facilitate student learning and simulated practice for many reasons. The recent changes in NMC standards may become a more permanent fixture in healthcare education and simulation training.
Despite the recent pressures on nursing schools, they have spurred positive action: the government is encouraging significant investment in simulation, and virtual simulation is considered a valid approach.
Join us in our upcoming webinar!
Join us at 3:00 pm (GMT) on Wednesday 29th November, to hear from the expert team at Northumbria University, who will be sharing more about the steps they’ve taken to implement VR into their clinical simulated placement programme.
Get ready for real-world insights into:
- Selection strategy: What factors led to NU’s choice of adding virtual reality to support their programme
- Utilization: Processes for implementing VR and get practical advice on adding virtual reality into your own programme
- Processes: Understand the process for approval and validation of simulated placement hours by the NMC
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