Aim: The aim of this presentation is to showcase an innovative clinical simulation designed to enhance the development of communication in the care of people with dementia.
Background: Health educators have been challenged to improve the preparation of graduates to care more effectively for people with dementia (Department of Health and Ageing, 2006). Incorporating clinical simulation into undergraduate curricula is one strategy which provides opportunities to assist learners to be competent and address the complexities of dementia care (Jeffries, 2007).
Methods: A case study scenario was adopted with a patient presenting with a history of dementia whose condition was compromised by illness. A cross-setting approach provided the context for students to apply theory to practice and the opportunity to focus on developing communication necessary to assess and respond to a person with dementia. This was facilitated using a four hour role play and debriefing model which focused on the healthcare experience for the person with dementia.
Results: A total of 300 third year undergraduate nursing students across 3 campuses in NSW at on university completed this simulation. The simulation activity was facilitated by 10 staff (academics, casual tutors and clinicians). This activity highlighted the complexity of using sophisticated role play in simulation for novice tutors. Using a model of students fulfilling the role play function resulted in inconsistency in the simulation and highlighted the difficulty of using this approach for learning about communication in dementia care. Students reported that the experience was stimulating and challenging and it provided them with an opportunity to contextualise the theory of the care of people with dementia.
Conclusion: The approach is relevant and transferable to all health disciplines and will be of interest to academics and practitioners interested in enhancing the work readiness of graduates to care appropriately for people with dementia. Future development of this simulation activity will be used to replicate international success in dementia undergraduate education (Downs, Capstick, Baldwin et al., 2009). The next iteration will be formally evaluated to learn more about delivering a specialist simulation activity.