Session 1C -Paper 2 | Helping nursing student’s provide empathetic care to vulnerable older people through e-simulation

Janet Hunter, Associate Professor – City, University of London, School of Health Sciences, Division of Nursing

Dr Kerry Reid-Searle, Deputy Dean of Simulation – CQUniversity, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Sciences


The paper describes an innovative approach to engage students in an e-simulation to enhance their understanding of empathy when delivering intimate care to a vulnerable older person. It addresses the implementation of a unique experience that builds on, and supports the learning and teaching approaches.

As the world’s population ages the number of frail and older people requiring health and social care is increasing. Older people may have complex needs and co-morbidities and in meeting these needs healthcare professionals aim to provide holistic, empathetic, person-centred care. It is reasonable to assume that for most healthcare professionals, empathy is an inherent attribute. However, studies suggest that interactions between nurses and older people are too often influenced by ageist attitudes and a lack of empathy (Parke and Hunter, 2014; Rush et al., 2017).  Reports have shown that the nursing care provided to older people lacks empathy and they can experience unkindness and indifference (Francis 2013), which results in both emotional and physiological harm.

Thus, student nurses need to be well prepared to provide safe and effective care to older people.  Learning activities that enables students to reflect upon, learn from and transfer their learning to their real-world practice, can potentially improve care to older people. E-simulations is a way of achieving this and are defined as outcome-based scenarios or role-plays that are delivered via a computer/TV screen and can include text, captions, graphics, audio, animation and/or video (Cant and Cooper, 2015). They must be authentic and should encourage a critical examination of ideas and perspectives, opportunities of feedback and reflection to foster deep learning (Buykx et al., 2011).

The ‘Empathic Care of a Vulnerable Older Person’ e-simulation was designed as a way of helping healthcare students provide empathic and person-centred care to older people, particularly at times when they are vulnerable. This learning experience uses Mask Ed™ to create an authentic, spontaneous unfolding scenario that illustrates the story of Mr.Sharman and the care he receives. Students engage in a 10-minute e-simulation followed by a 30 minute debrief by trained facilitators.

This paper will discuss the impact of this teaching approach through a three-group pre-post study using the Comprehensive State Empathy Scale (Levett-Jones et al., 2017) to evaluate the effectiveness of the e-simulation (Reid-Searl et al 2020).

Slides from the session

Slides for this paper can be accessed via clicking here 

Recording of the session:

Paper 2 starts from 29:07 into the recording.


Buykx, P., Kinsman, L., Cooper, S., McConnell-Henry, T., Cant, R., Endacott, R., Scholes,J., (2011) FIRST2ACT: educating nurses to identify patient deterioration – a theory-based model for best practice simulation education. Nurse Education Today, 31 (7), 687-693.

Cant, R., Cooper, S., 2015. The time is right for Web-based clinical simulation in nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice. 5 (11), 113–119. 

Francis, R., 2013. Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. The Stationary Office, London Available at.

Levett-Jones, T., et al., 2017. Measuring the impact of a point-of-view disability simulation on nursing students’ empathy using the comprehensive state empathy scale. Nurse Education Today 59, 75–81.

Parke, B., Hunter, K., 2014. The care of older adults in hospital: if it’s common sense why isn’t it common practice? Journal of Clinical Nursing. 23, 1573–1582.

Reid-Searl,. Levett-Jones, T., Lapkin, S., Jakimowicz, S., Hunter, J. & Rawlings-Anderson, K. 2020, Evaluation of the ‘Empathetic Care of a Vulnerable Older Person’ e-simulation. Nurse Education Today, 88, 104375-104375.

Rush, K.L., Hickey, S., Epp, S., Janke, R., 2017. Nurses’ attitudes towards older people care. An integrative review. Journal of Clinical Nursing 26 (23–24), 4105–4116.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email