As technology continues to change healthcare practices, patient care simulation is transforming nursing education.

Vivienne Pierce McDaniel DNP, MSN, RN, works as the diversity equity, and inclusion consultant for Sentinel U® where she ensures that all simulation products create a lifelike healthcare environment that is sound and inclusive.

“Sentinel U® values nurses, and healthcare outcomes depend on how well prepared nurses are to address the social determinants of health and to provide equitable care across the continuum of care,” McDaniel says. “Sentinel U® is committed to healthcare equity through their products, and they are created to expose the learner to a diverse set of patients.”

As part of growing nursing advances and trends, simulations are used to help nurses experience various situations and individuals they could encounter during their nursing practice. Ensuring the products represent accurate and realistic diversity of all forms helps nurses gain essential skills. Whether a nurse practices in a highly diverse community or in a more homogeneous community, simulation provides needed guidance.

Because they can train with simulation products, nurses don’t have to learn on the fly when they are presented with a situation they have never encountered before. “It allows nursing students and novice nurses to increase their critical thinking and develop sound clinical judgment in an environment that is risk free,” says McDaniel. Because the simulations are realistic but tech-based, nurses can make mistakes without the risk of any harm.

For nurse educators, simulations that represent all kinds of diversity–from race and ethnicity to mobility or religious beliefs–offer a robust pedagogy for teaching diversity and inclusion concepts as they apply directly to nursing, she says. Nurses become aware of any implicit bias they may have–to an accent or condition a patient has. They also become aware of the subtle ways their implicit biases may impact the care they give inadvertently such as through terminology they use or an assumption they hold.

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McDaniel’s commitment to ensuring equity in healthcare drives her to assess each simulation meticulously. Recently, she spent time reaching out to a leader of an indigenous tribe to make sure the simulation she was reviewing was accurate. She also wanted to learn more to understand how Sentinel U® could fine-tune it even more. Those details make a difference to nurses, patients, and residents of long-term care facilities. “People from underrepresented and underserved populations are going to be the first to notice that there’s bias and a lack of cultural competence and sensitivity,” she says.

When nurses train using all kinds of simulation scenarios, they help close a chasm that McDaniel sees in achieving health equity. Nurses who invest time in simulation will gain enough knowledge and practical experience to be positioned to achieve that with their patients. “To me it’s pivotal,” says McDaniel. “Simulation healthcare-based interventions help them achieve that. To achieve diversity, you must first foster an environment that’s inclusive and equitable.”

Vivienne McDaniel with US Representative John Lewis

Vivienne McDaniel with the late US Representative John Lewis

McDaniel’s work as a nurse is her second career; she became a nurse in her 40s. A family-based commitment to civil rights runs throughout her work–she is family of Rev. Curtis Harris, civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, AL (her mother is a first cousin). “He put it in my head that we have to represent those who are underrepresented and serve those who are underserved,” she says. “That played a huge role in what I do.” And she knows that each nurse bring a set of lived experiences to their work.

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Her own experiences are based in part on growing up in a rural setting. McDaniel recalls watching airplanes fly overhead and wanting to be on them one day. When she was able to travel, she used the opportunity to immerse herself into the communities and cultures around the globe to learn from them. “That all prepared me for what I was going to do later,” she says.

Each nurse, she says, brings a history that enriches patient care. “My favorite thing is diversity of thought,” she says. “What experience will that person bring to the bedside.” Simulation work adds to a nurse’s body of experience to broaden their understanding of inclusive patient care. “We must address all these topics because they might be encountered in a nursing practice,” she says. “Simulations are realistic and they will encounter characters and experience environments that some nursing students might never otherwise be exposed to.”

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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