Use and Effectiveness of Virtual Simulations in Nursing Student Education: An Umbrella Review

Comput Inform Nurs. 2023 Jan 1;41(1):31-38. doi: 10.1097/CIN.0000000000000932.


Computer-based virtual simulation in nursing is a rapidly developing field. A summary of current research could benefit nursing faculty who are incorporating this pedagogy into online teaching due to social distancing requirements. This umbrella review aimed to explore the use and effectiveness of virtual simulations in prelicensure nursing education. Our umbrella review approach was informed by The Johanna Briggs Institute guidelines. The 18 included reviews captured the experiences of over 7600 nursing students who engaged with five different virtual (screen-based) simulation modalities. Results indicated that virtual simulations can be effective in developing nursing students' knowledge and psychomotor and psychosocial skills, for example, in medication administration and communication. There was no study that showed a conclusive benefit of virtual simulations for developing clinical reasoning. Students enjoyed virtual simulations, claiming they were accessible, fun, and engaging ways to learn. Many benefits of virtual simulations and some technological challenges were identified in a mapped model. In the future, more rigorous and experimental studies are needed to confirm effects on learning outcomes. Nursing curriculum designers need to define the place and purposes of the pedagogy to ensure that knowledge and skills learned during virtual simulations can be applied to real-world, patient-centered care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Nursing* / methods
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate* / methods
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Students, Nursing* / psychology