Expanding Nursing Simulation Scenarios to Enhance Care of Diverse Patient Populations

by | Jan 12, 2024

In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the ability to effectively care for diverse patient populations has never been more critical. While simulation provides nursing students with a hands-on learning experience, an evident knowledge gap persists. To develop culturally competent nurses, it is necessary to weave DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusivity) principles throughout the nursing simulation curricula.

What are some common nursing simulation scenarios and how can incorporating lived experiences impact the nursing student competencies? Let’s take a look.

Patient Scenarios for Nursing Students

Nursing programs typically ask their students to complete cases from pediatrics to geriatrics and cover various medical issues. Some common nursing simulation scenarios include:

  • Comprehensive physical assessment
  • Acute care scenarios
  • Chronic disease management
  • Medication management
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Shared decision-making
  • Post-discharge follow-up
  • Telehealth visits
  • Mental health assessments
  • Consultations for substance use, cancer screenings, and more
  • Assisting patients with medical clearance and immunization forms

Patient simulations can be remote (online) or in-person; each approach has benefits and drawbacks. Programs traditionally prioritize in-person SPs so nursing students can practice their physical assessment and technical skills. 

Remote simulations offer opportunities to work with a more diverse pool of patients and practice observational and interpersonal communication skills, such as identifying and responding to non-verbal cues.

With telemedicine and remote patient monitoring becoming more common, new and seasoned nurses can benefit from strengthening their telehealth skills. By working with standardized patients online, nursing students can learn how to effectively connect with their patients despite the barrier of a screen.

Enhancing Care with Lived Experiences

While many scenarios focus strictly on practicing medical competencies, there’s an increasing need for healthcare providers with cultural competencies, too. Intentional DEI-based learning objectives allow nursing students to hear unique patient stories and better understand the lived experiences of stigmatized and minority groups. 

With practice, students also gain a deeper understanding of the impact of social determinants on health outcomes. 

Other benefits of incorporating DEI principles into patient scenarios include:

1. Rooting Out Biases

All people deserve equitable and empathetic healthcare regardless of their background, beliefs, or other characteristics. Biases can unintentionally shape our language, perspectives, and actions, leading to patient harm. 

Currently, available nursing simulation scenarios exhibit a distinct need for more diversity. This gap in educational practices leaves students and their future patients at a disadvantage. Unless unlearned, nurses’ unconscious biases or assumptions impact their clinical decision-making, and patients receive substandard care. 

Standardized patients are an underutilized opportunity for nursing programs to incorporate DEI principles into their curricula. Exposing nursing students to diverse standardized patient scenarios based on the lived experiences of real people will give new nurses the tools to build trust and better communicate with patients to provide the care they need.

2. Developing Competency and Confidence

Exposure and experience are the only reliable ways to develop appropriate and effective patient care skills. Regional demographics can significantly impact the diversity in a geographical area, effectively limiting exposure for students and practitioners.

It is often the stigmatized communities–including LGBTQ+ individuals and various ethnicities, religions, and races–that care providers encounter less frequently. Patients from these groups may be less trusting of medical professionals or have fewer members in an area. 

The resulting lack of exposure can create heightened apprehension among practitioners. Their uncertainty is often born from the fear of making mistakes related to societal norms or language. The resulting nervousness and avoidance can lead to worsening stigmatization and discrimination in healthcare settings. 

Standardized patient scenarios provide a safe space for nursing students to practice without fear of harming or offending. Trained standardized patients can offer feedback and gentle corrections to learners without judgment.

Scenarios based on the lived experiences of stigmatized groups will also help providers understand the complexities of their unique healthcare needs, concerns, and priorities. This understanding is the key to delivering more empathetic and effective services, ultimately helping to bridge the gap between fear and familiarity in patient care.

3. Improving Patient Outcomes

In the fast-paced trenches of the healthcare industry, it’s important to remember why we do what we do. As nurses, the goal is to provide compassionate, skilled care to patients and support their health and wellness goals. 

Patients who receive empathetic, patient-centered care have better health outcomes. When patients feel understood and validated by their care team, they are more likely to:

  • Be active participants in their own health decisions
  • Seek medical care when necessary
  • Follow the advice of their care team
  • Continue treatments and appropriate follow-ups

Explore Our Scenario Library

Healthcare is human care, and the best way to learn is through experience. Simclusive offers a robust library of standardized patient scenarios and a diverse representation of SPs to help learners practice delivering intentional, well-informed care to stigmatized groups.

These scenarios are based on real human lives and provide a safe and controlled environment for learners to practice their skills. Our standardized patient scenarios cover a wide range of inclusive topics and include a clinical therapeutic element.

A few of our available scenarios include:

  • Supporting Your 60-year-old Patient through their Gender Emergence – 60-year-old patient that recently began hormone therapy, presents with heart racing & trouble sleeping. Patient seeks support coming out to their wife.
  • Nonbinary Patient Seeking Substance Treatment – Jordan is a 26-year-old person who was referred to a provider for “substance treatment.” Patient is hoping to discuss potential options regarding how to best address substance use.
  • Discussing Religion and Mental Health with a Cisgender Woman – Patient doesn’t believe in antidepressants due to her religious faith. She called this appointment to discuss her trouble sleeping and frequent headaches.

Nurses must possess the skills and expertise necessary to provide culturally competent care, and laying the groundwork long before graduation sets learners up to provide the best possible care to every patient they encounter. See how Simclusive works and how we are promoting a new generation of nurses who can provide compassionate, inclusive care for all.


Renee Wadsworth

Renee Wadsworth is a simulationist specializing in Human Simulation Online, using SPs (standardized patients) to apply & assess important skills in a psychologically safe environment. Renee is currently an SP Education Strategist for SP-ed & Simclusive at Healthcourse, Inc where she is responsible for developing, coordinating, and managing human-to-human simulations for universities, health systems, and professional associations, focused largely on telehealth and inclusive healthcare. Renee was first introduced to the world of medical simulation as an SP in 2013 and quickly gained more involvement with the industry, finding creative ways to expand the use of SPs outside of undergraduate medical education. She is passionate about creating a world where patients feel safe and confident with their care teams.

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