Nursing is an incredibly important field. Nurses are responsible for caring for the sickest and most vulnerable in society and helping them recover their health as quickly and completely as possible. Without them, the medical industry would be very different and less effective than it is today.
Unfortunately, nursing education can be difficult to find in some parts of the country. In states where there are few educational programs for nursing and spaces are limited, aspiring nurses might be faced with the prospect of moving away from their homes to complete their education, which is not something everyone wants, or is able, to do.
Luckily, the rapid advancement of technology has made nursing education and online learning much more accessible. This article explores how virtual simulation, in particular, affects nursing education in the United States.
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A widening shortage
Nursing is so critical to the foundation of the American healthcare system that the thought of being without them is almost comical. Unfortunately, the number of nurses entering the field is far fewer than the number leaving. As baby boomers exit the field, the number of nurses is dropping significantly.
Moreover, the nursing shortage is poised to become an even bigger issue in coming years, according to a 2020 survey. Not only do the vast majority of nurses believe that the shortage is impacting their work, but data has shown that by 2030, 42 of the country’s 50 states might be short on nurses.
This is a serious issue that stands to impact the quality of care that hundreds of millions of people receive in the healthcare system, and as long as nursing education is difficult to access, the number of nurses entering the field will continue to be lower than the number of those leaving.
Luckily, tools are available that are making nursing education more accessible. Virtual simulation and online learning combined make it much easier for aspiring nurses to obtain the skills they need in the workplace virtually.
Previously, students needed to be present in person at least some of the time when studying to become a nurse, solely because they needed to work on practical skills like administering shots and working with difficult patients. Today, students can have the experience of working in a hospital room carrying out routine processes without leaving their homes.
Virtual simulation and online learning do a lot to make nursing education more attainable around the country and could potentially be one way to lessen the seriousness of the nurse shortage. Making education easier to acquire could result in a boom of professionals in the industry.
The following are some of the reasons virtual simulation is a great addition to nursing education, and how online learning positively impacts nursing education. The two go hand in hand, but each has an independent impact.
Here ‘accessibility’ is referred to as it applies to students with disabilities. Virtual simulation can be used to cater to students with disabilities by creating a virtual environment that plays to their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. Students might learn better visually, for example, and virtual simulation can tailor their learning experience to this need.
One of the best ways to truly learn something is to interact with it in different ways. When learning a new language, for example, it is sometimes said that one has to use a word five different ways before it becomes natural to their vocabulary. This means writing the word, saying the word, listening to other people say the word, and reading the word, among other activities, in order to fully commit it to memory. This idea holds true in other areas of education, including nursing.
Virtual simulations offer students immersive learning experiences where they can practice various nursing skills and experience various nursing scenarios in a safe, controlled environment. This enhances their understanding and competency of the skill in question dramatically and makes it more natural to use while in person.
Easier acquisition of new skills
A nursing education does not end when a degree is completed. On the contrary, medical professionals are required to stay up to date with the latest policies, regulations, and best practices in their industry. This can be difficult where skill acquisition is concerned. Attempting to use the skill in person without first practicing can lead to negative outcomes, but where can you get the experience you need if not at work?
Virtual simulation is a convenient option that allows nurses to advance their skills without interrupting their professional careers. It is one of the reasons nurse simulation training is gaining in popularity both in school and outside of it. The Master of Science in Nursing at Walsh University is one example of a well-designed nursing degree that incorporates cutting-edge technology to offer nurses a well-rounded education.
Online learning presents just as many benefits to aspiring nurses as virtual simulation, if not more, such as:
Flexibility in learning
Online learning allows students to fit their education around their lives rather than demanding they change their lives to fit a class schedule. Students working towards a remote degree can access course materials, including lectures, at their convenience. This makes it much easier to fit education into their daily schedules, especially if students are working full-time while studying. Loading up a lecture on a lunch break, for example, is an easy way to stay on top of studies during downtime.
Improved geographical reach
As discussed, students who do not live near nursing education opportunities face difficulties when attempting to join the field. Online nursing education removes geographical barriers, allowing students from across the country to apply to the program best aligned with their goals without relocating. As a result, students from underserved populations are better able to access nursing education and make a difference in their communities.
Online learning still costs money, but relatively less than in-person study. Even if the course itself costs just as much online as it does in person, students do not have to worry about leaving work to attend classes, nor do they have to worry about high gas prices increasing their expenses.
One of the benefits of some online learning programs is the ability to study at one’s own pace. Not everyone wants to cram their education into a year or two. Sometimes students prefer to study in their own time. This is especially useful for students who need more time to really comprehend the material and might otherwise fall behind in traditional learning experiences.
There are many advantages to virtual simulation and online learning in the field of nursing. Both present clear benefits to students and make it easier than ever to acquire a nursing degree. From expanding geographical reach to creating programs that are more inclusive for students with disabilities and learning difficulties, both tools have the potential to significantly increase the number of people able to train to become nurses.