Technology adds new dimension to nurse education

By Nick Carne

A clever South Australian idea is making nurse education more effective and more fun – and gaining national and international attention.

NurseSim, which was created by TAFE SA and Adelaide-based software developer ETRAIN, uses the latest in 3D animation to simulate a range of clinical scenarios for trainees to watch then practise – preparing them more quickly to take on the real thing.

Around 800 TAFE students are already putting it through its paces as part of their studies, and universities and hospitals interstate have asked for demonstrations. The development team has also been invited to be a part of the International Clinical Skills Conference in Italy in May.

The story began with ETRAIN, which approached TAFE SA to ask if it could make use of its technology.

The potential in a variety of health settings became obvious, and nursing staff spent hundreds of extra hours over six months working with ETRAIN to create around 80 scenarios – from taking blood pressure to inserting an intravenous line into a patient.

Nursing Education Manager Alison Sanders believes it is a huge step forward in nursing training that will “create a new breed of graduates who are better skilled and more confident in their training”.

“Where previous computer-based training programs were passive, with students just sitting and listening, NurseSim is hands-on,” she said. “Students embed themselves into a virtual world of clinical practice to complement their face-to-face training – and it’s fun.”

It’s also flexible. The unique technology uses internet browsers, rather than relying on software installed on a computer.

“Students can log in on any device, anywhere, to do their training and they don’t need to have the latest virtual reality equipment or computers with expensive graphics cards to work it,” said ETRAIN’s Managing Director, Mat Balic. “They can access the program from a $300 tablet if that’s what they have.”

To date the priority has been to get the core clinical skills online and available. The potential now is to extend into other areas, such as aged care or first aid training – anywhere that would benefit from the “see, try, apply” approach.

“The feedback we’re getting is that students come to the workshops with a higher level of knowledge about what they are about to do and they also come with questions, so they are already starting to trouble shoot,” Ms Sanders said.