Simulation to Practice: Developing Nursing Skills in Mental Health: An Australian Perspective

By Edward, Karen-Leigh; Hercelinskyj, Julie et al. | International Electronic Journal of Health Education, May 22, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Simulation to Practice: Developing Nursing Skills in Mental Health: An Australian Perspective

Edward, Karen-Leigh, Hercelinskyj, Julie, Warelow, Philip, Munro, Ian, International Electronic Journal of Health Education


A variety of developments in nursing education in Australia including some innovative and exciting models, educational enterprises between education and industry, and evidence of developing strengths in research and professional alliances on a national level have been discussed recently. This paper presents Simulation to Practice as an example of an educational program that can maximise skill mastery for nurses in mental health fields as practised by Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. The program is multimodal and is under-pinned by a problem-solving approach and has an online presentation. The extension of nursing skills through this approach encourages nurses to take theoretical skills to practice during these scenarios which help student nurses to gain experience through simulated real life characters. These sessions, while challenging at the time, were highly valued by students and seen as a beneficial part of their learning as a beginning nurse and often instrumental in moving comprehensively trained students into mental health careers.

Key words: Australia, Clinical Skills, Practice, Simulation, Mental Health, Nursing Education


This paper presents a simulation educational program for beginning nurse's which was held in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool, Australia. The program was reviewed for quality purpose, but importantly, provided rich information that could benefit the skill mastery of undergraduate nursing students. Achievement of clinical skills is multifaceted and is most complex in certain areas of nursing, in particular when that area requires advanced clinical practices in the care of the mentally ill. The contemporary skills of nurses working in mental health field include highly developed skills in communication, negotiation, advocacy, consultation, psychological assessment and risk assessment. This expertise works toward the provision of timely interventions for clients who may be, and often are, in psychological states of urgency. Knowledge is central in building these competencies, but knowledge alone is not enough. Knowledge must be organized and utilized in systematic ways and applied to actual clinical situations to facilitate clinical decision-making and problem solving. Since nurses will be required to use advanced communication and advocacy skills with clients who are experiencing mental illness in areas of health, skill mastery is fundamental in the comprehensive nursing degree. Radwin (1) examined the attributes of what constituted experience in nursing and found increased ability, confidence and an enhancement of self efficacy grew with experience. Simulation to practice as a mode of education for clinical skill mastery can facilitate experiential learning for beginning nurses.

Theory to Practice in Mental Health Care

Stuhlmiller (2) highlighted a severe problem of qualified mental health nurse academics, mental health nurses and employers not meeting mental health practice standards, and practice not informed by evidence-based research. Additionally, there has been a notable decline of students choosing mental health as a career in Australia since the introduction of University-based comprehensive nursing education. Specialist undergraduate nursing degree programmes have ceased to exist and specialization of practice became the focus of postgraduate education. Comprehensively prepared nurses have been found to be incompetent in a mental health setting and require additional training. Curricula and qualification inconsistencies across Australia mean that even minimum standards for practice preparation in mental health care are currently not being met.

Providing clinical interventions to individuals experiencing mental illness requires the therapeutic use of self. The therapeutic use of self involves using aspects of yourself, such as your personality, experience, knowledge of mental illness and life skills, as a way of developing and sustaining the therapeutic relationship with clients.

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Simulation to Practice: Developing Nursing Skills in Mental Health: An Australian Perspective


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