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    Many practicing nurses may assume they possess all the assessment skills they need to promote positive patient outcomes. However, many do not use their physical assessment skills to the full extent.  It is the nurse’s responsibility to competently utilize all assessment techniques, including inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation. Some nurses may not use all of these techniques in their clinical areas. 

    The reason for this performance gap is that there is often a lack of focus on the more advanced techniques in the practice setting (Secrest, Norwood, & DuMont, 2005). Some nurses may assume it is the responsibility of the advanced practice nurse to effectively use all assessment techniques. However, it is every nurse’s responsibility (even novice nurses) to utilize these techniques in order to identify abnormal findings and communicate them to the treatment team. When nurses lack these necessary skills and rely on others in advanced roles to identify issues, they are doing a disservice to their patients.

    Because there is such a great need for nurses to be well-trained and able to meet the needs of a diverse patient population, Kaplan University’s School of Nursing is making some innovative moves in student learning. We now have integrated computer-based programs with your nursing curriculum. We offer a unique opportunity for our students to enhance their ability to provide a complete and holistic physical assessment through didactic studies and web-based simulation. 

    With the introduction of Shadow Health in both our Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing health assessment courses and one nursing practice clinical course, students are now able to participate in a learning experience that is both challenging and exciting. Shadow Health helps our students engage in patient care that mimics the real world experience with patients that are interactive, diverse, and informative.

    Cant and Cooper (2015) state that “web-based simulation programs are a valuable resource that can be used in combination with traditional forms of laboratory and classroom teaching, in order to facilitate the development of students’ clinical competence” (p.113). It is through web-based programs that we help our students identify weaknesses in their assessment approach in order to enhance their techniques, practice, and patient outcomes.  

    Shadow Health provides our learners with an opportunity to practice old skills and learn new skills in a safe, therapeutic environment. With features that allow for immediate program performance feedback, as well as expert feedback from the instructor, these students can go forward into the clinical setting with confidence in their skills. Because of their increased understanding of their assessment findings, Kaplan University’s nursing students will be better prepared to improve and promote positive patient outcomes.

    We are excited about this innovative approach to learning in nursing. We strive to enhance our students’ learning experience with learning strategies that are effective, creative, and evidence-based. Because technology strongly influences the direction of healthcare, we want our students to be not only successful in practice, but also technologically advanced. We have other exciting endeavors planned. Stay tuned—there is more to come from the School of Nursing.


    Cant, R.P., & Cooper, S. J. (2015). The time is right for web-based clinical simulation in nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 5(11), 113-119. doi: 10.5430/jnep.v5n11p113 

    Secrest, J.A., Norwood, B.R., DuMont, P.M. (2005). Physical assessment skills: A descriptive study of what is taught and what is practiced. Journal of Professional Nursing, 21(2), 114-118.

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