Dementia Training: Simulation Training for Nursing Students

Research Study Supports Use of Dementia Simulation Training for Nursing Students

What is a Dementia Simulation?

Dementia simulation allows students to walk in the shoes of those with dementia- to experience the world as they experience it. We explain Dementia Live® as the 'Inside-Out' experience, allowing participants to take that deep dive into understanding what it might be like to live with the extraordinary physical and emotional challenges accompanying cognitive change.



Experimental Learning Cycle

Kolb's experiential learning style theory is typically represented by a four-stage learning cycle in which the learner 'touches all the bases:



Effects of Simulation on Nursing Students

We are pleased to share the highlights of a study published in the Issues on Mental Health Nursing. This study, "Effects of Simulation on Nursing Students' Dementia Knowledge and Empathy: A Mixed-Method Study", led by Michelle Kimzey, Assistant Professor at the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, TX. This study used the theoretical framework of Kolb's Learning Cycle, which supports the theory that when learners are engaged in an experience, retention rates increase dramatically. 

Harris College of Nursing engaged the Dementia Live® Simulation Program in 2019 and has been using this tool to prepare their students for working with elders, especially those with cognitive decline.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated there are 50 million people with dementia globally, with the numbers set to increase threefold by 2050. Dementia is a major public health issue that affects the well-being of the entire population.

TCU believes that dementia education is vital for increasing student nurses' knowledge of the complex behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and then empowering them with understanding. Prior to this study, there has been little research about the use of dementia simulation in nursing education or its impact on students' empathy and knowledge.


Results from Mixed-Method Study

Qualitative results from this mixed-method study looked at cognitive empathy, distress, empathetic imagination, and helping motivation.

Explanations of these main themes are as follows:

  • Cognitive Empathy - an understanding of a person's experience from their viewpoint, and included the students' recognition of multiple losses experienced by people with dementia.
  • Distress - Many students verbalized uncomfortable feelings experienced during and as a result of the simulation, indicating distress.
  • Empathetic Imagination was evident in students' descriptions of what it would be like to have dementia, what the person living with dementia is experiencing, and a comparison of their current life to the life of someone living with dementia.
  • Helping Motivation is a student's recommendation for caring for a person with dementia or showing interest in getting involved or helping.

Quantitative findings supported an empathetic understanding of people with dementia. Distress, empathetic imagination, and cognitive empathy were significant indicators and prominent in the focus groups.



The conclusion of this study adds to the understanding of teaching and learning about dementia care and highlights the contributions of a seven-minute simulation made to improve empathy. Dementia Live® enabled students to experience for themselves the physical and mental challenges those with dementia face. Their study supports the theory that dementia education should empower nursing students to appreciate the needs of people with dementia and their caregivers, support them in care, and provide person-centered care.