NewsNational News


Virtual patients training real people in simulated nursing program

Posted at 10:14 PM, Dec 17, 2020

A simulation program to train nurses is gaining in popularity. Shadow Health is using virtual patients to train real people in hopes of quickly bringing those real students into the workforce.

From pediatrics to maternal health, the future of nursing school is happening now.

“The technology is so good, you’ll get an answer. You might not get the answer you’re looking for; you’ll have to rephrase and that’s the way it is in real life too,” said Lorrie Rilko, an assistant professor at George Washington University’s School of Nursing.

She was a nurse practitioner for 30 years and then decided it was time to help the next generation of nurses.

“My greatest responsibility is to prepare future nurse practitioners in the art of accurate history taking and skilled physical exam and then putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together to come up with a clinical diagnosis,” Rilko said.

She says George Washington University was already using this simulated technology when the pandemic hit. The pandemic put the program in the perfect position to continue training new medical professionals and it allows them to learn, practice and fail on computers rather than on real live patients.

“It's kind of like telehealth,” Rilko said. “We’ve had telehealth and until we had to really rely on telehealth, there were a lot of barriers to overcome."

Brent Gordon is the managing director for Elsevier's nursing and health education business, which recently acquired Shadow Health.

“One of the challenges in higher education institutions, specifically in the United States and this is true worldwide, is that they have challenges meeting the demand, they have capacity constraints,” Gordon said. “One example is shortage of clinical space. Digital simulations help solve that problem.”

He says one of the real problems that the virtual education solves is that of communication, which he says can be at the root of medical malpractice claims.

“Nurses are increasingly graduating, passing the (National Council Licensure Examination) NCLEX but not entering practice with the clinical reasoning skills they need to be successful on day one," said Gordon.

Rilko said her students enjoy the virtual interaction, and they like training on their own time. Some are currently working on the front lines and taking the course in their spare time.