Theses Doctoral

The Application of Virtual Simulation to Promoting Empathy in Undergraduate Nursing Students

Juan, Samantha

Empathy is the foundation of caring in the nursing profession. It is critical to an effective patient-nurse relationship and impacts decision-making in nursing care. This study aimed to investigate the impact of virtual simulation on nursing students’ empathy and the relationships of empathy to their demographic characteristics. A randomized pretest and posttest control group design was employed in the study with 140 participants from twelve undergraduate nursing programs across Canada.

A virtual simulation scenario was created by the author regarding a patient with substance overuse in an acute care setting. Standardized patients were employed to portray the virtual characters to enhance realism and immersive experience. The participants in the control group reviewed a text-based case study, which consisted of an identical storyline of the virtual simulation scenario, while those in the intervention group experienced the virtual simulation activity. The Kiersma-Chen Empathy Scale-Revised (KCES-R), Substance Abuse Attitude Survey (SAAS), and a demographic survey consisting of age, gender, personal, family, and learning experiences related to substance overuse, were used in the study.

The results indicated empathy was significantly increased after the learning activities in both groups, but nonsignificantly different between the participants in the text-based case study and virtual simulation groups before and after the learning activities. Meanwhile, the participants’ attitudes toward substance overuse did not change significantly after their learning activities. All demographic characteristics were nonsignificantly correlated to the participants’ empathy as well. However, the participants’ empathy toward the patients with substance overuse was significantly associated with their attitude toward substance overuse.

This study is one of the few studies that employed virtual simulation to promote nursing students’ empathy. Although the study did not demonstrate a significant difference between the text-based case study and virtual simulation groups after the learning activities, it supports that virtual simulation is effective for promoting empathy in nursing education as a text-based application. Future studies will be needed to explore different virtual simulation designs and to determine how individual characteristics influence the cognitive process of perspective-taking in promoting empathy.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
O'Connell, Kathleen Ann
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023