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International Nurses Day: The value of role play in nursing education at Kingston University

Posted Sunday 12 May 2024

International Nurses Day: The value of role play in nursing education at Kingston University Kingston University has around 70 role players who act out real-life scenarios to help nursing students' teaching and learning.

Nursing students at Kingston University are being prepared for their careers with the opportunity to learn using real-life scenarios in simulation with role players. The University first employed around 10 role players in 2010. The number has now grown to approximately 70  – an addition to simulated learning at Kingston that few other universities offer.

To mark International Nurses Day on 12 May, students at Kingston University explain how their learning benefits from working with role players to simulate real-life scenarios, in different settings such as home and acute, while the role players discuss how they use their skills to give the students the best possible learning experience.

Third year adult nursing student Phoebe Schur said the role play scenarios had given her confidence she has the necessary knowledge to communicate with different people. "I'm quite a shy person so it really helps, particularly learning in a calm environment where mistakes can be made and there's no consequence," the 24-year-old from Reigate said. "The role plays are part of our studies. supplementing our simulation learning – they help prepare us for our placements, where we deal with a variety of people and personalities."

Course and Student Administrator Janet Ockenden, who has worked at Kingston since 1999, is central to the role player team in simulation and assessment. She has helped create a community for the role players, which has led to growth and retention over the years, enabling the best possible education for Kingston's nursing students.

"The value of role players is important to the teaching because it gives the students a real-life setting in which to learn," Janet said. "They receive feedback from teaching staff and the role players so they can learn from them without causing anyone any harm – it's a really positive experience for everyone involved."The students get to act out multiple different scenarios across all four fields of nursing.The students get to act out multiple different scenarios across all four fields of nursing.

The role players are asked to perform a range of patient or relative roles based on real-life scenarios across the fields of nursing such as being a worried relative, an individual with mental health issues, a post-operative patient or a bereaved relative.  The role players work from a written scenario but bring their own lived experiences, making the simulation as realistic for the students. All role players attend regular training which enables them to provide immediate constructive feedback to the students from the patient or relative's point of view which is always highly valued by students.

Role player Alan Paterson, a retired 75-year-old from Kingston, said taking part as a role player enables him to meet and engage with a range of people.  "It gives me a purpose and the chance to work with students, academic staff and other role players. I love watching the students work together as a team to solve the situations we act out for them," he said.

Adult nursing Masters student Annabel Eddo said this practical learning style equipped her with a different set of skills to classroom-based learning. "I like scenario-based learning as it prepares me for real-life situations and gives me the chance to develop my teamwork and communication skills," the 25-year-old from Islington said. "We are given scenarios to make us think, problem solve and make quick decisions."

46-year-old Christina Reeves has an acting degree and has been helping at Kingston for seven years. "I act as a mother-of-three who has mental health issues, channelling my own personal experiences into the character. This allows me to provide the students with constructive feedback to help their learning," she said.

Head of Simulation and Practice Learning at Kingston University, Sally Richardson, said role play is an integral part of simulated practice learning for all fields of nursing. "Our role players give our students the opportunity to work in a safe environment to put the skills they have learned during their course into practice through realistic scenarios. Role players engage students in simulated learning with the patient and family at the centre," she said. "We are lucky to have such a large team of dedicated role players to provide an immersive learning experience for our students, though none of this would be possible without Janet and the role she has in ensuring the delivery of simulation with role players."

  • Find out more about studying nursing at Kingston University.

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