Clinical placement areas are often busy, the number of available placements is generally falling and consequently students are often competing for the same learning opportunities (Brooks, Moriarty and Welyczko, 2010). In conjunction with the changes in funding and the consequent removal of the cap on numbers to be implemented in Autumn 2017, this may make it increasingly difficult for nurse education providers to offer an appropriate range of quality placements for students. Failure to gain the necessary breadth and depth of exposure during training will in turn affect the ability of newly qualified staff to work effectively and safely within the UK healthcare system. Students themselves also report feeling unprepared for practice, despite good theory and skills teaching.
Simulation is being increasingly used in nurse education to develop, maintain and formatively evaluate clinical competencies, for non-technical and interdisciplinary training, and for learning more about approaches to patient safety. Simulation may effectively complement practice learning, which may become increasingly important as obtaining good quality clinical placements grows more difficult. Research has demonstrated that students undertaking placements in appropriate simulated learning are equal in competence and readiness for practice to those undertaking clinical placements only (e.g. Hayden et al, 2014). In the UK, up to 300 hours of students’ total placement time may be spent in simulated learning (NMC, 2010).