In health-care education, it is important to assess the competencies that are essential for the professional role. To develop clinical reasoning skills is crucial for nursing practice and therefore an important learning outcome in nursing education programmes. Virtual patients (VPs) are interactive computer simulations of real-life clinical scenarios and have been suggested for use not only for learning, but also for assessment of clinical reasoning. The aim of this study was to investigate how experienced paediatric nurses reason regarding complex VP cases and how they make clinical decisions. The study was also aimed to give information about possible issues that should be assessed in clinical reasoning exams for post-graduate students in diploma specialist paediatric nursing education.
The information from this study is believed to be of high value when developing scoring and grading models for a VP-based examination for the specialist diploma in paediatric nursing education.
Using the think-aloud method, data were collected from 30 RNs working in Swedish paediatric departments, and child or school health-care centres. Content analysis was used to analyse the data.
The results indicate that experienced nurses try to consolidate their hypotheses by seeing a pattern and judging the value of signs, symptoms, physical examinations, laboratory tests and radiology. They show high specific competence but earlier experience of similar cases was also of importance for the decision making. The nurses thought it was an innovative assessment focusing on clinical reasoning and clinical decision making. They thought it was an enjoyable way to be assessed and that all three main issues could be assessed using VPs.
In conclusion, VPs seem to be a possible model for assessing the clinical reasoning process and clinical decision making, but how to score and grade such exams needs further research.
2014. Vol. 34, no 4, 538-542 p.