As the need for nursing professionals increases and students enroll to meet the growing demand, the way that education and care are provided is poised to change dramatically. Far from sitting in a classroom learning solely out of a book, today’s students face a vibrant and immersive classroom experience that can translate into immersive clinical experiences. Students and professionals alike are often submersed in their training and educational needs, giving them the ability to thrive under pressure and experience providing care in stressful situations.
This article looks at what immersive clinical experiences are, how they are helping nursing professionals ensure that patients receive the best care, and the specific components of immersive clinical care.
What is an immersive clinical experience?
An immersive clinical experience refers to a clinical experience that immerses the subject in the moment. For example, when a student is completely interested in a topic, they may have an immersive experience where everything else fades away. For some students, lab work is often the most exciting component of their education because they can see the elements they are learning about in practice.
This section will explore how immersive clinical experiences differ from students to professionals as well as their benefits.
How are immersive clinical experiences used in nursing education?
The nursing profession has experienced many strives forward over the years. Nursing education has come a long way over the decades. When the profession first emerged, it existed as a complement to physicians. Nurses did not have much in the way of responsibility or specialized education. Instead, they taught each other common first-aid methods designed to help them carry out the doctor’s orders. They relied on physicians to give them direction and did little without their supervision.
By the 20th century, that was already changing. The advent of the American Nurses Association (ANA), then known as the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, saw their member numbers jump from less than 20 to more than 10,000 two years later in 1898. This was the first step in the push for nurses to receive a comprehensive education granting them more independence from doctors, the ability to exercise their own judgment, and the respect they deserved. In 1911, the ANA began fighting for policymakers to recognize the importance nurses brought to the medical field and how their hard work and dedication improved patient outcomes.
In the decades since, the nursing field including nursing education, has transformed from sharing tips between nurses to a wholly didactic education to a hybrid education filled with book learning and small amounts of practical experience in the form of labs to an immersion-based education. Today’s immersive-based education has a primary focus on training nurses via hands-on experience, so aspiring nurses experience a very different training environment than those who came before them.
Modern nursing education
The hard-earned knowledge brought about by decades of nurses before them shapes the way for modern nursing education. Immersive clinical experiences are quickly becoming the preferred and ideal training option, with aspiring nurses spending as much time as possible with professionals in fast-paced environments designed to mimic real-world conditions. Sometimes this education takes place directly in a hospital or other medical facility where nursing students interact with patients and perform the duties they will have once they graduate and enter the workforce.
When they are unable to work with real patients, nursing students are often afforded virtual reality experiences or work in entirely simulated environments designed to be as close to real-world conditions as possible. This gives them the experience they need to make hard decisions under pressure and in the most stressful situations. As a result, their transition into the field of nursing is as smooth as possible, ensuring that patients receive the best care possible from day one.
How are immersive clinical experiences used by professional nurses?
Unlike students, nurses often experience immersive clinical experiences daily. Nursing students experience them solely to mimic the real-world nursing experience and provide aid and gather information on the fly. Many nurses, especially those who work in higher-stress environments such as critical care or emergency departments, find themselves wholly consumed in their work and often gain exceptional insight into patient needs. This includes holistic patient evaluations, patient groups, and care needs that are both acute and chronic.
Holistic patient evaluations
Primarily, immersive clinical experiences are helpful to patient care by informing holistic patient evaluations. They do this in a few different ways. First, nurses caring for patients in hospitals or similar facilities see many patients throughout the day. They must provide the best care possible in the shortest time frame, which means they can’t take five or 10 minutes with every patient. Immersive nursing helps nurses better understand their patients as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, nurses ‘in the zone’ might have no problem quickly swinging from room to room and filling basic requests and needs on the go. This, in turn, provides patients with a highly alert and attentive nursing professional concerned about their needs and wellbeing who takes care of them comprehensively.
Another way that immersive clinical experiences help nurses ensure that patients receive excellent care is by giving them insights needed to discern what patients require in different areas. If they are experiencing multiple medical conditions, for example, nurses must be able to see through the symptoms and determine which illness or injury is the cause. They must also take information about the patient’s medical and familial history to create a treatment plan that complements the doctor’s orders and allows patients to heal faster.
Insight into patient groups
Immersive clinical experiences also help nurses work with patient groups. While it is important to see every patient as an individual and pay attention to their specific needs without forming biases based on things like race or gender, some groups are more likely to experience a particular health issue than others. This doesn’t refer to groups of people who share hobbies like traveling, of course, but rather cultural and ethnic groups. Immersion in the clinical experience allows nurses to gather insights into the common health struggles the groups they encounter deal with. They may work with many different cultural groups and one of them is especially likely to suffer from heart conditions, for example. Meanwhile, another group might not suffer from heart conditions, but instead be at risk of liver or kidney problems.
Health issues can have a range of causes. Some stem from cultural practices, with certain societies valuing alcohol more than others. This example could lead to more liver and kidney issues in one community over another. This doesn’t mean that nurses should assume what health issues patients are experiencing based solely on their culture, but it does serve as a warning to watch out for symptoms of very specific health problems.
Immersive clinical experiences provide nurses with a wealth of information they can use to tailor their services to specific patient needs. Patients will then receive better care – as it is catered to them – and should be able to recover better, more quickly, and more effectively. Therefore, immersive clinical experiences are a benefit to everyone involved.
Insight into acute and chronic care needs
Immersive clinical experiences also give nurses information about acute and chronic care needs. Patients with an acute problem need different care than patients with a chronic issue that progresses slowly. If a nurse has a patient with appendicitis, for example, they require immediate care and close attention must be always paid to their vitals. Patients with chronic diseases, on the other hand, don’t need as much critical care unless they are in a medical emergency. Chronic diseases can include lifelong illnesses and long-lasting pain conditions, meaning that the patient’s symptoms are prevalent most of the time, and pain management can need consistent efforts. Nurses and carers will need to be aware of the type of pain, extremeness of the pain, and anything else that the patient may require on a regular basis due to their condition.
This insight into care requirements allows nurses to determine what patients need at any time. For example, if they have a patient with cancer visiting them for an appointment, the nurse will be able to prepare with information on symptom management, including chemotherapy symptoms. A patient with pneumonia, on the other hand, might need to be admitted to the hospital immediately and receive round-the-clock care to overcome the health issue.
Benefits of immersive clinical experiences
One of the biggest benefits of immersive clinical experiences is the responsibility and attention it demands from both students and professionals.
Students, for example, do more than just complete written coursework. Instead, they dedicate themselves fully to the experience. Throughout the training program, they operate as professionals in the field and make the same kinds of decisions they will need to make when working as professional nurses. This, in turn, prepares them for a future career in a busy field that offers many rewards and challenges. To fully engage in learning, nurses must dedicate themselves to education. In doing so, the nurses that finish these courses will be the most dedicated, the most caring, and the most knowledgeable professionals.
For professional nurses working in the field, immersive clinical experiences are critical as they are building the experience and knowledge pool. There is a lot of information that nurses can only learn from difficult situations they encounter on the job. It is difficult to simulate these situations for students, which means that nurses often experience some difficult lessons over the course of their careers that their education couldn’t fully prepare them for. However, once they have experienced them, this information is added to their knowledge bank forever, better preparing them for future endeavors. This is the value of immersive clinical experiences.
Anyone who is interested in nursing and wants to complete one of the many fast track nursing programs online will find that the best thing they can do is pick a university that offers comprehensive nursing education, including immersive clinical experiences. Wilkes University, for example, offers an incredibly designed nursing program designed to prepare students for difficult scenarios and excellent care.
Immersive clinical experiences lead to competent nurses
Those who are interested in how immersive clinical experiences improve patient care can take the information above to propel further research. With enhanced technology, improved education, and an aging population to care for, the nursing profession is only set to grow. Career opportunities in the industry are already abundant, so they are absolutely something worth exploring – especially with all the recent medical innovations and the continued developments going on in the medical field.
With immersive clinical experiences forming the heart of many well-established nursing programs, students can rest assured knowing that a course taken with a reputable university will set them up for great success in the years to come.