Connell School researchers found clear distinctions between secondand third-year nursing students’ clinical judgment and reasoning skills in high-fidelity simulations, Associate Professor Jane Ashley and Assistant Professor Kelly Stamp reported in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Nursing Education.

Junior nursing students are more likely to “think like a nurse” than sophomores according to the researchers, who videotaped simulation sessions in which students were presented with a postoperative “patient”—a high-fidelity manikin—who developed a common clinical problem. They then conducted interviews to explore what students were thinking, feeling, and doing during the simulations.

The researchers found that sophomores, whose postoperative “patient” had developed hypoglycemia, did little preplanning before the simulation and relied mainly on vital signs, visual cues, and common sense. The juniors, whose patient was having a heart attack, were more likely to use analytical reasoning to focus assessments, test hypotheses, and problem solve. Ashley and Stamp concluded that sophomores need to hone skills in noticing and interpreting patient symptoms while juniors can be given problems with increasing complexity.

Both groups consistently introduced themselves and practiced safety checks and hand hygiene, but showed room for improvement in communicating with physicians and patients. When communicating with the doctor, for example, “most students left out significant data, gave information out of sequence, and were reluctant to make recommendations for care.”

—Research summary by Debra Bradley Ruder