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Meet Mohammed: using simulation and technology to support learning

Nichola Lambert (Based at the Department of Mental Health, Social Work and IPL, Middlesex University, London, UK)
Lucy Watkins (Based at the Department of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 14 June 2013




Clinical placements within healthcare are fundamental to student development and higher education institutions need to ensure that students’ learning within practice is supported. There is an increasing evidence base to suggest that simulation may help to bridge this gap. The purpose of this paper is to describe how a cohort of 85 first‐year mental health students undertook a simulation project, in which they followed the admission of a virtual patient (in the form of an avatar) called Mohammed, to an acute inpatient ward. This simulation project was a two‐week experience for student nurses, whereby they engaged with a virtual service user and worked in teams and as individuals to support his recovery. This project allowed students to practice their clinical skills and communication skills within a safe and supportive environment.


This paper is an evaluation of a two‐week experience for student nurses where they were supported to engage with a virtual service user. It was designed to provide students with exposure to decision making, critical thinking and the application of clinical reasoning in a simulated working environment. Students were able to practice their clinical and communication skills within a safe and supportive environment. Student understanding was measured before the project began, on completion to measure any changes and again when the student had had returned to practice to see if they had maintained their skills.


Several emergent themes were identified: first, students acknowledged a greater level of learning during activities which they considered most challenging and in some cases the least enjoyable. This raises questions about the management of emotions in unfamiliar learning situations and of student expectations around the “Gamification” of learning. Students wanted increased interaction with the avatar and there is potential to continue to develop this project in terms of measuring application of knowledge and student performance by using innovative assessment and engagement strategies.

Practical implications

This project provides a platform for the active contribution of service users, carers and specialist teams. It allows educational input to closely align to practice needs, for lecturers to support and feedback on practice experiences and it opens up flexible and remote working for students. With an understanding of the principles and practice behind it, this project could be adapted for other practice and managerial learning events. Some examples include: multi‐disciplinary team‐building activities, to form part of an assessment or interview process, or integrated within a provider's own polices and opportunities for practice learning, such as preceptorship.


This paper explores opportunities for creative engagement in learning with service users, practice teams and students and it highlights the need for an evidence base around simulation for mental health nurse education.



Lambert, N. and Watkins, L. (2013), "Meet Mohammed: using simulation and technology to support learning", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 66-75.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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