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2022 Looking Forward: What to Expect in Nursing Education

A summary of what we're seeing - plus some guidance to help

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs in 2022.1 Contributing factors include increased demand for care during the pandemic, nurse burnout, an aging population with complex medical needs, and retiring nurses and faculty.2 In September 2021, the American Nurses Association urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare the current situation a national crisis.3

This shortfall isn’t for lack of interest in entering the nursing profession. 80,521 applicants were turned away by nursing schools in 2020 due to insufficient numbers of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.

In some cases, community college nursing programs received as many as 800 applicants for 50 available spots.4

Looking ahead, more nursing programs are turning to simulation to help them do more with less so they can continue to meet an urgent need. Below, we share how simulation in nursing education is playing a role in helping schools produce practice-ready nurses in 2022.

Filling shortages in clinical time

With the pandemic still ongoing, clinical experiences may continue to be limited due to COVID-19 patients, overwhelmed nurses, and other issues.5

With all the uncertainties surrounding the future of the pandemic, many nursing programs are growing their simulation programs to provide a safety net from the scarcity of clinical site opportunities. And, educators are increasingly realizing the value of the nursing simulation lab in creating a risk-free hands-on learning environment.

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"When I'm in a clinical setting and I'm the nurse or faculty member who’s supervising a student and...I see she's going to make a mistake, I step in right away to stop; safety comes first. In simulation, the student gets to make the mistake, and then they get to understand what the mistake causes; that imprints in a very different way to help them understand the consequences and to help them not make that mistake again."

Dr. Desiree Hensel, Dean of Curry College School of Nursing6

If one of your many worries is having enough clinical time for your students, you may want to consider growing your simulation program to provide assurance that hands-on opportunities are consistently available.

Our Guidance

First and foremost, find out your Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB)’s education requirements for use of simulation in your state. Begin by referencing the NCSBN’s state-by-state education requirements document – but always be sure to check with your state for any updates. Then, consider investing in a simulator that is often used for replacing clinical time in nursing programs.

Nursing Anne Simulator is a common choice for covering core nursing skills, and its modularity allows it to simulate a variety of patients. 

Efficiently preparing every nurse for practice

New data suggests that rates of preparedness in new nurse graduates are declining.

A study of data collected using a Performance Based Development System (PBDS) from 2016-2020 covering more than 5,000 new nurse graduates found that only 14% showed entry-level competencies or readiness for residency.7

At the same time, schools are still battling faculty shortages. In a 2019 survey from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, nursing schools reported that faculty shortages were the top reason for not accepting more applicants into their programs.8 And, one third of nurse faculty in baccalaureate and graduate programs are expected to retire by 2025.9

These factors point to the need for efficient processes that ensure consistent, quality learning experiences, while identifying and addressing learning improvement needs early.

When considering the difference that an efficient process can make, think about a totally different industry, manufacturing. Manufacturers must ensure that every unit they produce is of consistent quality, with minimal wasted time or effort in the process. To accomplish this, many of these companies use data-driven process improvement and quality control approaches. These approaches involve measuring and analyzing data to uncover causes of variation and poor performance so that they can be improved. The healthcare field sometimes uses similar processes to identify and eliminate the causes of medical errors and to mitigate variability in care.10

When paired with careful measurement and assessment of performance data, simulation can help create a similar level of efficiency. Simulations ensure that each student gets the same quality consistent experience. Performance data insights can help uncover individual or cohort-level issues early so they can be ironed out immediately. The result? An efficient “manufacturing” process that churns out confident, prepared future nurses.

Our Guidance

If you're interested in increasing efficiency in your simulation program, the SimCapture simulation learning management system can help make it possible by facilitating the management, recording, and assessment of your simulation training. Easy-to-use reports and statistics on performance can help track usage, KPIs, and learning outcomes. This will make it easier for you to make informed decisions and increase you organization's simulation return on investment.

Supporting the progression of learning

The ongoing adoption of technology in nursing education was accelerated by the pandemic as programs shifted rapidly to new and innovative ways of teaching. This situation illustrated the power of using simulation in various forms to strengthen clinical skills.

Looking ahead, many programs plan to continue embracing simulation and other technologies to facilitate both in-person and online learning. In a 2020 survey on future technology trends in nursing education, responses from 450 nursing administrators, faculty, and deans found that 39% plan to offer more online courses post-pandemic.11 48% of respondents intend to invest more in virtual simulation in the next 2 years, while 34% plan to invest more in high-fidelity manikins.12

With more programs increasingly using multiple forms of simulation, some simulation centers are implementing approaches to help organize and align their simulation activities with learning pathways. The SimZones framework is one such approach. Originally developed for the Boston Children’s Hospital Simulation Program, SimZones is a system for matching simulation delivery methods to specific learning needs.13 It separates simulation activities into four zones, with the learning goals increasing in complexity as students progress through each zone.

The first zone involves independent auto-feedback exercises, often using virtual simulation, while the next zone covers hands-on foundational clinical skills. Students then move on to acute situational simulations, followed by team and system development simulations. In the final zone, students practice in real patient care settings. This phased simulation learning journey allows students to “walk before they run” and build upon what they’ve learned before reaching a real patient.


Laerdal has created its own modified framework for organizing the learning progression with our Circle of Learning. This systematic approach to healthcare training shows the phases of learning required to develop confidence and competence to effectively treat patients.  

Our Guidance

Efficiency will be key to building for better outcomes in 2022. Consider using the Circle of Learning to help you identify and address any missing pieces that might exist in your program. You may want to look for options that can also help you deal with other issues like shortages in space, faculty, or clinical time. Here are a few of our predictions for how our clients will be using simulation to address some of the segments within the Circle of Learning in 2022:

  • Skills proficiency with Premature Anne Task Trainer. Students are already using this portable trainer in any setting to practice ET and OG/NG tube insertion, Sellick maneuver, and other skills until they feel confident in their ability to perform them on a real infant. We see a reliance on this approach only growing. 
  • Decision-making with vSim. Virtual simulation strengthens clinical reasoning and decision-making skills, and help prepare students for the sim lab and clinical time. It can also help address faculty and space shortages, and serve as a supplement for clinical opportunities if needed. And, virtual simulation meets the needs of today’s learners. We see a higher dependence on virtual simulation in the months ahead.
  • Simulation in teams with SimMan® 3G PLUS and Laerdal Scenario Cloud. Team training, especially in emergency situations, improves skills in teamwork and communications - a key area of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) competencies.14 Using pre-programmed nursing simulation scenarios validated by experts can reduce the time commitment of authoring scenarios from scratch. Simulation to improve teamwork is here to stay and will only grow in importance.

Some final guidance for 2022

  1. Take advantage of any remaining funding sooner than later. If your department was granted funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) or other program, you may want to consider using it sooner than later. If you’ve already aligned with the rest of your group on how to use it, moving forward now will eliminate risk of losing funds to other priorities that might arise in 2022.
  2. Invest in your faculty. Many nursing faculty feel that they aren’t adequately trained in new technologies.15 Investing in some faculty development will help them be more efficient.
  3. Remember to tout your simulation program! Let the efforts you put into your program this year pay off in your recruiting initiatives. Applicants will likely be attracted to technology that will enhance their learning experience.   


  1. American Nurses Association. Retrieved from
  2. Morris, G. (2021). Nursing and Healthcare Trends We Can Expect to See in 2022. NurseJournal. Retrieved from
  3. American Nurses Association. (2021). ANA Urges US Department of Health and Human Services to Declare Nurse Staffing Shortage a National Crisis. Retrieved from
  4. Detrow, S. & Noguchi, Y. (2021). Just when more nurses are needed, it’s more difficult to get into nursing school. NPR. Retrieved from
  5. Mundine, J. & Authement, R. (2021). Nursing education during a pandemic: Will future nurses be prepared? American Nurse. Retrieved from
  6. Forecast for the Future: Technology Trends in Nursing Education. (2021). Wolters Kluwer and the National League for Nursing. Retrieved from
  7. Kavanagh, J. & Sharpnack, P. (2021). Crisis in Competency: A Defining Moment in Nursing Education. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 26(1). DOI:
  8. Fact Sheet: Nursing Faculty Shortage. (2020). American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved from
  9. Ibid
  10. Pexton, C. & Van Kooy, M. Using Six Sigma to Improve Clinical Quality and Outcomes. iSixSigma. Retrieved from
  11. Wolters Kluwer and National League for Nursing. (2021). See reference #6.
  12. Ibid
  13. Roussin, C. & Weinstock, P. (2017). SimZones: An Organizational Innovation for Simulation Programs and Centers. Academic Medicine, 92(8). doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001746
  14. QSEN Competencies. QSEN Institute. Retrieved from
  15. Wolters Kluwer and National League for Nursing (2021). See reference #6.