Nursing tutors at the University of Surrey are planning to make themselves unrecognisable in a bid to boost students’ skills.
Donning silicon face masks and full costumes, including false hands, torsos and feet, they will become “patients” with realistic symptoms.
They say they will be able to cover four hours of teaching in 20 minutes.
It would help with students’ communication and self-confidence, said adult-care tutor Dr Maria Miklaucich.
“The tutor represents a patient as a real-life character with a personality, a health condition and record as well as a life history, family members and extended family,” said Dr Miklaucich.
“By creating a real-life learning experience, students have the opportunity to use and practise their skills, such as communication, caring and practical skills.”
The university currently uses actors or manikins – life-sized anatomical models – to represent patients and relatives, but students have said they sometimes find it hard to immerse themselves in the experience “due to a lack of realistic, spontaneous communication”.
Instead, the tutors who put on the masks would draw on their professional experience to better reflect the reality of working as a nurse in a hospital or clinic, said Dr Miklaucich.
The tutors hope the new approach will encourage students who “otherwise may not participate” to join in the role-play.
They say the method, known as Mask-Ed, was developed at CQ University in Australia and has been shown to improve students’ theoretical knowledge, practical skills and confidence.
The experience from Australia suggested once students moved on to real-life clinical practice, they could recall how they had managed a particular scenario in the simulated environment, “using their experience, knowledge and skills with greater insight and from an informed perspective”, said Dr Miklaucich.
Surrey tutors piloted the technique last year and believe they are the first in the UK to adopt the technique.
The university hopes to start using it from March to train up to 500 students on nursing degrees, paramedic degrees and training diplomas for operating theatre staff.