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From ‘tag team’ theatre to operating theatre – setting the stage for safer nurses

Published:17 April 2019

CQUniversity’s Professor Kerry Reid-Searl who led a multi-institution Office for Learning and Teaching research project to prepare undergraduate nurses for the workforce in the context of patient safety through innovative simulation.

A new ‘tag team’ simulation which draws on elements of theatre, drama and improvised acting is helping nursing students focus on patient safety before they graduate as Registered Nurses.

That’s according to CQUniversity’s Professor Kerry Reid-Searl who led a multi-institution Office for Learning and Teaching research project to prepare undergraduate nurses for the workforce in the context of patient safety through innovative simulation.

The Tag Team Patient Safety Simulation (TTPSS) sessions are guided by a ‘director’ who immerses students in the learning experience to achieve predefined learning outcomes.

The ‘play’ incorporates a semi-structured script based on one or several National Safety Quality Health Service (NSQHS) standards.

The plot of the script is guided by the educator/director and an 'actor' who assumes the role of a patient (protagonist).

The director introduces the patient and provides the prologue. Students assume the role of members in the cast and or the 'audience'.

As members in the cast, students assume a role caring for the patient. Audience members actively watch the unfolding scenario.

Both the cast and audience members respond to the predetermined needs of the patient by drawing on their knowledge and skills and improvising to dramatise the essence of the scenario.

Intermission provides the opportunity for the audience to reflect on the scene that unfolded and its outcomes. The director can then guide reflective discussion and exploration of key practice issues.

During the Second Act, members of the cast may exchange roles a number of times, at the discretion of the director.

This dynamic is played out with members of the audience identifying themselves as offering a contribution to the play by 'tagging' a member of the cast.

When 'tagging' occurs, the roles are exchanged and the new cast member reframes the scene by offering an alternative approach and interventions.

The Final Act follows with a formal review (debrief) where reflective learning strategies are employed.

“The TTPSS approach actively engages large groups of students, is not confined to a specialised laboratory space and can potentially occur in any environment,” Professor Reid-Searl says.

“It helps graduates meet industry expectations of work-readiness by understanding healthcare team roles, by developing and enhancing communication, and through problem identification, teamwork and decision-making.

We referred to patient safety reports, coroners’ reports, contemporary literature and government priorities.

“Our project addresses the specific knowledge, skills and attributes industry expect of nursing students and graduate nurses regarding patient safety.

“We had a central focus on incorporating the NSQHS Standards and we delivered a Patient Safety Competency Framework for Nursing Students, as well as the TTPSS.

“TTPSS is unique as it promotes an 'all-inclusive' approach to student participation in simulation.

“It has been conceived to be easily adaptable to replicate a range of practice-based contexts and can be conducted in any learning environment.

“Furthermore, TTPSS is perceived as a simulation strategy appropriate for any healthcare discipline and has the potential to promote inter-professional learning.

“TTPSS is a student-centred approach to learning and teaching that is underpinned by sound education theory and acts as a medium for developing a range of employability skills while engaging in authentic clinical issues with a specific focus on patient safety.”

CQUniversity was the lead institution, alongside the University of Technology Sydney, University of the Sunshine Coast and Australian Catholic University.

Other team members included Professor Trudy Dwyer and Leanne Heaton from CQUniversity, Professor Tracy Levett- Jones from UTS, Associate Professor Steve Guinea from ACU and Associate Professor Patrea Anderson from SCU. The project officer was Tracey Flenady and the research assistant was Judy Applegarth.

The project report has been published on the Learning and Teaching Repository of the National Library of Australia.