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Simulations Help Dietetics Students

Last fall the Coordinated Program in Dietetics took an innovative approach to teaching clinical dietetic skills to students through simulation.

Clinical simulations are the newest technology to enter the clinical education environment. They embody advanced technology, help meet the demand for clinical placement sites and embrace a new way of thinking about education.

In the postsecondary health care field, simulation is increasingly recognized as a teaching resource to reduce pressure on limited clinical sites and preceptors.

Benefits to using clinical simulation include increasing the confidence of trainees and adding rigor to the credentialing and precepting process. But simulations are new to the area of clinical dietetics.

In a partnership with North Idaho College Health Sciences, the University provided simulated clinical experiences to dietetics students that replaced experiences that they would have received in local hospitals, who continue to limit their numbers of students.

Simulation will help the University continue to increase our enrollment numbers and expand placements for Clinical II students around the state. Dietetics completed assessments and medical nutrition therapy on “SimMan.” This is a robotic patient in a hospital room that communicates back to them. Preceptors and instructors took turns programming the robot and challenging the students on specific cases. 

One of the advantages of this new method and use of technology is the provision of realistic clinical experiences without risk to patients and learners; essentially, learners have “permission to fail” and learn from such failure in a way that would be unthinkable in a real clinic setting.

Students can be exposed to clinical experiences they would rarely see, and events can be scripted and practiced. Scenarios can be designed with increasing complexity and introduced in a controlled way. Skills can be practiced repeatedly, tailored to individual needs.

University faculty in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences believe that simulation-based learning can help students bridge the gap between classroom and clinical settings and support their ability to apply what they have learned. Faculty are carefully evaluating the efficacy of this new technique and will be publishing the results of the research soon.