The general aim of this thesis was to contribute to a deeper understanding of students’ perceptions of learning in simulation skills training in relation to the educational design of the skills training. Two studies were conducted to investigate learning features, what clinical skills nursing students learn through simulation, and how.
Undergraduate nursing students were chosen in both studies. Study I was conducted in semester three, and study II in semester six, the last semester. Twenty-two students in study I practised intravenous catheterisation in pairs in the regular curriculum with an additional option of using two CathSim® simulators. In study II, ten students practised urethral catheterisation in pairs, using the UrecathVision™ simulator. This session was offered outside the curriculum, one pair at a time.
In study I, three questionnaires were answered - before the skills training, after the skills training and the third after the skills examination but before the students’ clinical practice. The questions were both closed and open and the answers were analysed with quantitative and qualitative methods. The results showed that the simulator was valuable as a complement to arm models. Some disadvantages were expressed by the students, namely that there was no arm model to hold and into which to insert the needle and that they missed a holistic perspective. The most prominent learning features were motivation, variation, realism, meaningfulness, and feedback. Other important features mentioned were a safe environment, repeated practice, active and independent learning, interactive multimedia and a simulation device that was easy to use.
In study II the students were video-recorded during the skills training. Afterwards, besides open questions, the video was used for individual interviews as stimulated recall. The interview data were analysed with qualitative content analysis. Three themes were identified: what the students learn, how the students learn, and how the simulator can contribute to the students’ learning. When learning clinical skills through simulation, motivation, meaningfulness and confidence were expressed as important factors to take into account from a student perspective. The students learned manual and procedural skills and also professional behaviour by preparing, watching, practising and reflecting.
From an educational perspective, variation, realism, feedback and reflection were seen as valuable features to be aware of in organising curricula with simulators. Providing a safe environment, giving repeated practice, ensuring active and independent learning, using interactive multimedia, and providing a simulation tool that is easy to use were factors to take into account. The simulator contributed by providing opportunities to prepare for skills training, to see the anatomy, to feel resistance to catheter insertion, and to become aware of performance ability. Learning features, revealed from the students’ thoughts and experiences in these studies, are probably general to some extent but may be used to understand and design clinical skills training in all health care educations. In transferring these results it is important to take the actual educational context into account.