Aim: 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.
Background: 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.
Design: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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%).
Conclusion: Knowledge scores suggest, on average, a satisfactory academic preparation, but this study identified significant deficits in students' ability to manage patient deterioration.
Relevance to clinical practice: 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.