Codeveloping a Virtual Patient Simulation to Foster Nurses' Relational Skills Consistent With Motivational Interviewing: A Situation of Antiretroviral Therapy Nonadherence

J Med Internet Res. 2020 Jul 15;22(7):e18225. doi: 10.2196/18225.


Background: Although helping people living with HIV manage their antiretroviral therapy is a core competency of HIV nursing care, no educational intervention has sought to strengthen this competency. Thus, we codeveloped a simulation of a virtual patient (VP) having difficulty adhering to treatment to foster the relational skills that nurses require in such situations.

Objective: This viewpoint paper aims to describe the codevelopment process and the content of VP simulation, as well as the challenges encountered and the strategies used to overcome them.

Methods: We use a collaborative and iterative approach to develop the simulation based on qualitative evidence, theoretical approaches (strengths-based nursing, motivational interviewing [MI], and adult learning theories), and expert recommendations. We carried out 2 main phases: (1) planning the simulation development and (2) designing the simulation content, sequence, and format. We created the script as if we were writing a choose-your-own-adventure book. All relational skills (behavior change counseling techniques derived from MI) were integrated into a nurse-patient dialogue. The logic of the simulation is as follows: if the nurse uses techniques consistent with MI (eg, open-ended questions, summarizing), a dialogue is opened up with the VP. If the nurse uses relational skills inconsistent with MI (eg, providing advice without asking for permission), the VP will react accordingly (eg, defensively). Learners have opportunities to assess and reflect on their interventions with the help of quizzes and feedback loops.

Results: Two main challenges are discussed. The most salient challenge was related to the second phase of the VP simulation development. The first was to start the project with divergent conceptions of how to approach the VP simulation-the simulation company's perspective of a procedural-type approach versus the clinical team's vision of a narrative approach. As a broad strategy, we came to a mutual understanding to develop a narrative-type VP simulation. It meshed with our conception of a nurse-patient relationship, the values of strengths-based nursing (a collaborative nurse-patient relationship), and the MI's counseling style. The second challenge was the complexity in designing realistic relational skills in preprogrammed and simulated nurse-patient dialogue while preserving an immersive learning experience. As a broad strategy, we created a collaborative and work-in-progress writing template as a shared working tool.

Conclusions: Our experience may be helpful to anyone looking for practical cues and guidance in developing narrative VP simulations. As relational skills are used by all nurses-from novices to experts-and other health care practitioners, focusing on this clinical behavior is a good way to ensure the simulation's adaptability, sustainability, and efficiency.

Keywords: HIV; communication; education, continuing; motivational interviewing; nurse-patient relations; nurses; simulation; virtual patient.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivational Interviewing / methods*
  • Patient Simulation*