Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android. Learn more here!


“See it, feel it, believe it, achieve it!”

-R. Byrne


  • Identify educational theories to guide simulation scenario development.

  • Utilize the best clinical evidence when developing simulation scenarios.

  • Demonstrate the critical elements of scenario development.

Simulation is an experiential teaching methodology. As such, its use in a healthcare or academic setting should be guided by sound educational principles (Clapper, 2010; International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning [INACSL] Standards Committee, 2016a). Because simulation offers a standardized, controlled environment for applied learning opportunities, it is ideal for conveying knowledge needed to handle low-occurrence, high-risk situations in the clinical setting.

When implementing simulation either within an academic or service setting, you must first develop a scenario. A clinical scenario is defined as:

a detailed outline of a clinical encounter that includes: the participants in the event, briefing notes, goals and learning objectives, participant instructions, patient information, environmental conditions, manikin, or standardized patient preparation, related equipment, props, and tools or resources for assessing and managing the simulated experience. (Lioce et al., 2020, p. 10)

Therefore, a simulation is a planned educational experience developed by a facilitator or educator to help the learner meet learning objectives. The scenario guides the learning opportunities for the participants. Solid educational practices consist of active learning, providing appropriate feedback, facilitating learner-educator interaction, and fostering diverse and collaborative learning.

To be effective, simulation scenarios need to be valid and reliable. Simulation validity is “the degree to which a test or evaluation tool accurately measures the intended concept of interest” (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016f, p. s45). Simulation reliability is “the consistency of a simulation activity, or the degree to which a simulation activity measures in the same way each time it is used under the same conditions with the same participants” (Lioce et al., 2020, p. 46).

The key to successful implementation of a simulation scenario lies in careful planning to map out the scenario details (Howard, Englert, Kameg, & Perozzi, 2011; Jeffries, 2012; Waxman, 2010). The scenario-development process should include participant preparation, pre-briefing materials, patient information with descriptions of the scenario, learning objectives, environmental conditions, related equipment and props to enhance realism, roles and expectations of participants, standardized patient scripts, a progression outline for the actual simulation implementation, a standardized debriefing process, and evaluation criteria (Alinier, 2011; INACSL Standards Committee, 2016a; Jeffries, 2007). Outcomes of a positive simulation experience can include knowledge attainment, improved skill performance, learner satisfaction, and increased self-confidence, among others.

The first step in the scenario planning process is to choose a topic for the simulation scenario. Topics for simulation scenarios can be generated in multiple ways. For example, scenarios in an academic setting can be developed to:

  • Align with course content and objectives


Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.