10 Apr 2021
International journal of environmental research and public health;
Much of the UK's ageing population lives in care homes, often with complex care needs including dementia. Optimal care requires strong clinical leadership, but opportunities for staff development in these settings are limited. Training using simulation can enable experiential learning in situ. In two nursing homes, Health Care Assistants (HCAs) received training in clinical communication skills (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation Education through Technology and Simulation, SETS: group training with an actor simulating scenarios); and dementia (A Walk Through Dementia, AWTD: digital simulation, delivered one-to-one). In this qualitative descriptive study, we evaluated the potential of this training to enhance HCAs' clinical leadership skills, through thematic analysis of 24 semi-structured interviews with HCAs (before/after training) and their managers and mentors. Themes were checked by both interviewers. HCAs benefitted from watching colleagues respond to SETS scenarios and reported greater confidence in communicating with registered healthcare professionals. Some found role-play participation challenging. AWTD sensitised HCAs to the experiences of residents with dementia, and those with limited dementia experience gained a fuller understanding of the disease's effects. Staffing constraints affected participation in group training. Training using simulation is valuable in this setting, particularly when delivered flexibly. Further work is needed to explore its potential on a larger scale.