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On-line role play in mental health education

Lorna Saunder (School of Health Sciences, City University, London, United Kingdom)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore a method of incorporating on-line role play in mental health nursing education. Recreation of meaningful and realistic simulations for mental health nurses is challenging. Examination of the literature reveals there is a gap in the provision of simulations that replicate practice, encourage the development of skills and promote responsibility. Those that exist may require significant investment in complex technologies or a high degree of planning and time commitment.


An evaluation of a pedagogical design that used an on-line survey to gather responses and thematic analysis was undertaken.


The findings identified that students engaged with the case leading to a realistic experience of case management and development of professional communication skills.

Research limitations/implications

This evaluation could be expanded further to a more formal study examining the students’ emotional responses and learning as they progress through the activity.

Practical implications

The activity outlined in this paper demonstrates that a relatively simple approach can result in deep learning whereby the student can fully experience the role of a qualified practitioner. This model could easily be adopted by other higher education institutions or as a part of continuing professional development.


This paper combines previously researched methods of providing role play to mental health nursing students. It has addressed the critiques of other methodologies such as being time consuming, expensive or lacking in realism. The end product, is low cost, manageable from the lecturers perspective and delivers important learning outcomes to the students.



Acknowledgements to Julie Attenborough and Clive Holtham for promoting the initial idea of online role play. Thanks also to Madeline O’Carroll, Tracy Lindsay and Rachel-Anne Knight.


Saunder, L. (2016), "On-line role play in mental health education", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 1-9.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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