Case-Based Learning and Simulation: Useful Tools to Enhance Nurses’ Education? Nonrandomized Controlled Trial

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To compare skills acquired by undergraduate nursing students enrolled in a medical-surgical course. To compare skills demonstrated by students with no previous clinical practice (undergraduates) and nurses with clinical experience enrolled in continuing professional education (CPE).


In a nonrandomized clinical trial, 101 undergraduates enrolled in the “Adult Patients 1” course were assigned to the traditional lecture and discussion (n = 66) or lecture and discussion plus case-based learning (n = 35) arm of the study; 59 CPE nurses constituted a comparison group to assess the effects of previous clinical experience on learning outcomes.


Scores on an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE), using a human patient simulator and cases validated by the National League for Nursing, were compared for the undergraduate control and intervention groups, and for CPE nurses (Student's t test).


Controls scored lower than the intervention group on patient assessment (6.3 ± 2.3 vs 7.5 ± 1.4, p = .04, mean difference, -1.2 [95% confidence interval (CI) -2.4 to -0.03]) but the intervention group did not differ from CPE nurses (7.5 ± 1.4 vs 8.8 ± 1.5, p = .06, mean difference, -1.3 [95% CI -2.6 to 0.04]). The CPE nurses committed more “rules-based errors” than did undergraduates, specifically patient identifications (77.2% vs 55%, p = .7) and checking allergies before administering medication (68.2% vs 60%, p = .1).


The intervention group developed better patient assessment skills than the control group. Case-based learning helps to standardize the process, which can contribute to quality and consistency in practice: It is essential to correctly identify a problem in order to treat it. Clinical experience of CPE nurses was not associated with better adherence to safety protocols.

Clinical Relevance:

Case-based learning improves the patient assessment skills of undergraduate nursing students, thereby preparing them for clinical practice.

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