Registered nurses psychophysiological stress and confidence during high-fidelity emergency simulation: Effects on performance.


Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, The Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; Faculty of Health Sciences, The Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2141, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


BACKGROUND : Simulation has been used extensively to train students and health professionals in the assessment and early intervention of patients with acutely deteriorating conditions. These simulations evoke psychophysiological stress in learners which may affect performance. We examined the relationship between stress variables, confidence, and performance during repeated scenarios in clinically-based emergency simulations.
METHODS : Twenty-six registered nurses completed three simulation scenarios focussing on life-threatening clinical events in a single group pre-test/post-test study design. Trait anxiety was measured at baseline. Visual analogue ratings of anxiety and stress were measured before ('pre'), recalled 'during', and immediately following ('post') each simulation scenario, with a self-rating of confidence completed after each simulation scenario. Heart rate was measured continuously throughout the simulation program. Participants self-rated their clinical performance prior to and following the simulation program ('pre' and 'post').
RESULTS : Participants' trait anxiety was not elevated at baseline (mean: 39.6, SD 6.1). Across the three simulation scenarios, anxiety and stress was elevated 'during' simulation compared to 'pre' and 'post' time points. However, the magnitude of elevation of stress and anxiety during all time points ('pre', 'during' and 'post' simulation) decreased significantly (p < 0.05) with progressive simulations. Heart rate increased significantly during all simulations compared to 'pre'-levels but returned to similar levels following the simulation. The amount of increase in heart rate over progressive simulations was attenuated during simulation 3 compared with 1 and 2 (Sim 1: 103.6 bpm (SD 22.1), Sim 2: 101.9 bpm (SD 18.9), and Sim 3: 99.5 bpm (SD 23.4)). Confidence increased across the three simulations (p < 0.001), with most of the increase observed after the first two simulations. Performance scores increased by 19.0% 'pre-post' simulation program (p < 0.001) and were not confounded by previous ALS or simulation experience.
CONCLUSIONS : We observed temporal-dependent changes in psychophysiological stress variables across the simulation scenarios, with decreased magnitudes of elevations of psychological (self-reported anxiety and stress) and physiological (heart rate) stress variables during successive simulation scenarios. This study has shown that simulation increased stress, especially before and during scenarios; however, the learning effect decreased the magnitude of the stress response with repeated simulation scenarios. Simulation educators need to create simulations that change stress in a purposeful manner to enhance learning.