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

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


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Simulation*
  • Students, Nursing*