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J Clin Nurs. 2010 Aug;19(15-16):2309-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.03164.x.

Managing the deteriorating patient in a simulated environment: nursing students' knowledge, skill and situation awareness.

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School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Gippsland Campus, Churchill, Vic., Australia.



To examine, in a simulated environment, the ability of final-year nursing students to assess, identify and respond to patients either deteriorating or at risk of deterioration.


The early identification and management of patient deterioration has a major impact on patient outcomes. 'Failure to rescue' is of international concern, with significant concerns over nurses' ability to detect deterioration, the reasons for which are unknown.


Mixed methods incorporating quantitative measures of performance (knowledge, skill and situation awareness) and, to be reported at a later date, a qualitative reflective review of decision processes.


Fifty-one final-year, final-semester student nurses attended a simulation laboratory. Students completed a knowledge questionnaire and two video-recorded simulated scenarios (mannequin based) to assess skill performance. The scenarios simulated deteriorating patients with hypovolaemic and septic shock. Situation awareness was measured by randomly stopping each scenario and asking a series of questions relating to the situation.


The mean knowledge score was 74% (range 46-100%) and the mean skill performance score across both scenarios was 60% (range 30-78%). Skill performance improved significantly (p < 0.01) by the second scenario. However, skill performance declined significantly in both scenarios as the patient's condition deteriorated (hypovolaemia scenario: p = 0.012, septic scenario: p = 0.000). The mean situation awareness score across both scenarios was 59% (range 38-82%). Participants tended to identify physiological indicators of deterioration (77%) but had low comprehension scores (44%).


Knowledge scores suggest, on average, a satisfactory academic preparation, but this study identified significant deficits in students' ability to manage patient deterioration.


This study suggests that student nurses, at the point of qualification, may be inadequately prepared to identify and manage deteriorating patients in the clinical setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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