Nursing Students as Epidemiologists: A Simulation Approach

Harriet Okatch, Timothy Joseph Sowicz, Helen Teng, Lucille Pilling, Monica Harmon, Christine Brewer, Alison Buttenheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Simulation is commonly used in nursing education to teach clinical skills. Here, we describe the development processes, implementation, and evaluation of an epidemiology simulation used in a community and public health nursing undergraduate clinical course at the University of Pennsylvania. The simulation was designed to teach students the principles and concepts of outbreak investigation and was based on the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in Toronto, Canada. The simulation places students in the role of a public health nurse in the outbreak investigation team, working in groups of five to seven students to complete analyses and make recommendations under time and information constraints. Since piloting in spring 2014, we have run the simulation three times (summer and fall 2014 and summer 2015). Student evaluations show high levels of engagement and interest and substantial increase in the skills and expertise required in an outbreak investigation. We share key lessons learned, including resources required for simulation development and delivery, revisions to the simulation format and content in response to student feedback, and transferability and sustainability of the simulation. Overall, simulation was a feasible and effective modality to teach epidemiology and should be considered in community and public health nursing courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Simulation in Nursing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Education
  • Epidemiology
  • Nursing students
  • Outbreak investigation
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Education
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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