Tips for Preparing Grad Nursing Students for Clinical Placements

by Anita Roy Desai MD, FAAP, Executive Director of Patient Simulation, i-Human Patients | August 31, 2021

Graduate nursing students require as much on-the-job training as possible to be prepared and successful in their clinical placements and practice. However, many students are limited in terms of real-world experience before they begin working with patients. Without experience in a healthcare setting, it can be difficult to hone diagnostic reasoning skills.

So, how can graduate nursing students gain crucial skills and experience as they are preparing for, and actively participating in. clinical placements?  One solution is to use virtual simulation for clinical practice.

i-Human Patients by Kaplan

Kaplan’s interactive virtual simulation program, i-Human Patients, can help graduate nursing students gain virtualized experience in patient encounters. From conducting a history and physical to creating assessments, while also providing faculty with data to drive debriefs and student engagement, to evaluating student’s treatments, i-Human Patients does it all.

Our platform goes beyond a virtual simulation for clinical encounters. It is a virtual tool to help graduate nursing students along their curriculum, into clinical years and beyond. It helps hone the necessary skills needed to be a proficient clinician, to serve as a guide on how to be a self reflective adult learner, and most importantly, how to effectively and efficiently ascertain information necessary to make evidence based  decisions.

3 Ways Virtual Simulation Helps Prepare Grad Nursing Students 

Here are three ways virtual simulation can help graduate nurses maximize preparation for clinical placements and their ultimate careers:

#1. Demonstrate a methodical approach to a each section of a patient encounter

Transitioning the mindset to become a diagnostic clinician is difficult and takes practice, diligence, and self reflection to understand one’s own deficits and areas for improvement.  We know there is a stepwise fashion to master each competency before being able to reach a diagnosis and it starts with a strong foundation in history taking.  The IOM reported a very concerning finding of how communication can lead to preventable deaths.  Graduate nurses can improve their history-taking skills using virtual simulation. Virtual simulation helps nurses create an organized approach to patient encounters, to avoid missing diagnoses.  They can then hone their skills on finding key parts of a physical examination before understanding the approach to a differential.  They can enhance their learning of what tests to order and practice cost effective medicine.  Students can use i-Human Patients on their smartphone or other devices anytime, anywhere. Cases also include both exercises and assessments to help students understand where and why they make incorrect or incomplete decisions. The cases are configurable to the individual learner and include standardized and automated assessments.

#2. Prepare for in-person clinicals with virtual simulation

Virtual simulation is an increasingly important aspect of training. Grad nursing students can use virtual simulation to prepare for in-person clinicals by allowing them to demonstrate, enhance, and assess knowledge.

In-person clinicals start with a strong foundation―history-taking. Failure to properly take patient’s history is a leading cause of medical errors. History taking is important because it represents an area of the nursing field that involves interacting with patients to develop and strengthen competencies relating to collecting and analyzing patient data, as well as diagnosing patients.

 i-Human Patients' history taking functions allow students to ask questions of virtual patients via a number of ways.  Thanks to the speech-to-text capabilities of the platform, students can simulate a realistic history-taking session through virtual patient questions via typed text―or even their own voice. They can also search questions in organized taxonomies.  Collectively, these features can help improve core competencies related to patient history-taking to provide the best quality of health care possible for in-person clinicals. 

#3. Fill in experience gaps

Graduate nursing students may not gain experience in all of the different types of cases they may encounter on the job. Virtual simulation helps fill in those gaps in experience. With virtual simulation, students can practice working on unusual cases, as well as simulate encounters with a diversity of patients who may have different needs. Given that cultural competency is a driver of quality healthcare, graduate nursing students can use virtual simulation to familiarize themselves with a variety of patients, cases, and medical needs.

i-Human Patients contains over 350 graduate cases, with over 230 patient “avatars” with a wide range of ages and demographics. The virtual patient encounters range the gamut from pediatrics to geriatrics, obstetrics and surgery to mental health. The participating avatars may include not only the patients themselves but also just like in real life the primary caregivers and responsible family members.  Standardized, auto-scored grading available 24/7 also saves time for the faculty and provides objective, consistent grading.


Graduate nurses must develop diagnostic reasoning skills over the course of their brief academic training.  Virtual simulation is a convenient supplement to textbook and in-person learning. i-Human Patients by Kaplan is also one such virtual simulation tool that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on mobile devices. With i-Human Patients, cases are standardized and scored automatically, reducing objectivity and helping to establish core fundamentals such as history-taking.

Virtual simulation tools such as i-Human Patients help prepare students to succeed in their chosen careers simulating real-world scenarios to build key experience, skills, and competencies needed to succeed in both the classroom and the workforce.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how virtual simulation can help prepare your graduate nursing students for success, visit the i-Human Patients website to request a demo today.

I value the idea of creating an experience.  Having worked with several healthcare consultancy firms, I learned how small things can have big effects.  Creating patient journeys to understand what patients see, hear, smell, touch, feel from the moment they set foot on hospital grounds to the moment they exit provided invaluable feedback.   This in turn showed the communities we served how we valued them and their input.  I hope to integrate this same concept when designing the i-Human Patients experience―from the moment of landing on the webpage, to every client encounter, to using the product.  The i-Human Patients team is committed to putting the clients first, hearing their input, and improving continuously.

See more posts by Anita Roy Desai MD, FAAP, Executive Director of Patient Simulation, i-Human Patients