Kerry Reid-Searl has always been a creative person, but having taught in a School of Nursing for many years, she recognized that the university setting offered limited opportunities to provide students with realistic clinical experiences while identifying that a hands-on approach was essential in preparing undergraduate nursing students for the reality of clinical practice.
Essentially, ‘the limited exposure to realism in the classroom meant that students had little opportunity to experience patient situations which involved dealing with the vulnerable person and his/her body, in particular, nudity and the challenge of negotiating social territory or touching ‘the untouchable’’, she says.
Getting actual patients into a classroom in order to create realistic learning opportunities was a tricky proposition so Kerry searched for an alternative. She first tried role play but found that as the educator she was easily recognised by students which meant that any realism or authenticity of the learning situation was lost.
What Kerry needed was a way to combine the expertise of the nursing academic with a role that was hidden from the learner.
The concept of hiding the educator through elaborate props would be the answer. As Kerry explains, if done convincingly, ‘the educator, with all his/her experience, could carefully navigate the learning experiences in sensitive ways and yet be hidden from the students’.
So, having come up with an answer to the initial problem, the issue was sourcing elaborate life-like props, with all body parts, that would allow the skilled educator to ‘transform’ into a patient and yet remain hidden from the learner.
At first Kerry tried hard-plastic face masks but these proved unreliable. She then turned to more pliable, and realistic, silicone head masks and body parts.
The simulation concept of MaskEd and the character of Norm were born!
Now, some eight years later, all educators wishing to incorporate the MaskEd (KRS Simulation) into their teaching undertake a two day training workshop where they get the opportunity to build character histories and act them out.
Kerry says that the success of the technique can be measured in many ways. Three universities conducted a research project that examined nurse educators’ use of the technique, reporting that it was major factor in the success of their preparatory nursing programs. Apart from positive student participant feedback and implementation of the technique to multiple universities, MaskEd is the winner of an Australian Simulation Achievement award as well as extensive teaching awards and successful Patent applications.
It’s not all been smooth sailing however and amongst the barriers to success Kerry has had to negotiate being challenged by her peers, plus unseen difficulties dealing with processes such as patent applications and the development of resources.
Throughout it all though, Kerry has tried to remain positive saying that ‘determination has been the one factor that has influenced success’ and offers the following advice:
‘If you have a teaching idea, then do not ignore it. Seek out opportunities for developing it. Always remember the focus is the student. Ignore criticism from peers and use this negative energy as a positive towards creative development. Seek legal advice on protecting your ideas especially regarding Patent applications and copyright.’
Watch the video and join in the discussion by answering questions below, or put your own point of view forward.
Having observed Mask-ED (KRS simulation) in action, what do you think the effective elements are for students?
Effective dramatic role play involves all of the elements of a great story: good plot, tension, comedy relief, and a satisfying wrap up. These could be difficult to achieve in simulation. Do you have tips to make simulation work well?
Are there concepts that you believe just can’t be learned through simulation learning?
McAllister, M., Reid-Searl, K., & Davis, S. (2013). Who is that masked educator?: Deconstructing the teaching and learning processes. Nurse Education Today. 33(12), 1453-8.
McAllister, M., Levett-Jones, T., Downer, T., Harrison, P., Harvey, T., Reid-Searl,K., Lynch, K., Arthur, C., Layh, J., Calleja, P. (2013). Snapshots of simulation: Creative strategies used by Australian educators to enhance simulation learning experiences for nursing students. Journal of Nurse Education in Practice, 13(6), 567-72.
Story, L., & Butts, J. (2014). Integrating Leonardo da Vinci’s principles of demonstration, uncertainty, and cultivation in contemporary nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 34(3), 287-291.