Tips to Succeed in Shadow Health Assessment (A Nurse Student Guide)

Written by Brandon L.
May 20, 202415 min read

The Shadow Health Digital Clinical Experience allows nursing students to showcase and hone their clinical reasoning and decision-making skills through interactions with digital standardized patients that simulate real-world patients. Through the simulations, students in various nursing programs and expertise levels can practice their nursing skills as they prepare for Next Generation NCLEX.

This article shares insights, tips, and strategies to help you ace Shadow Health simulation exercises.

Main Aspects of Shadow Health Simulation Exercises

The simulations also prepare the students to offer holistic and patient-centered care. The core features of the simulation exercises include the following:

Importance of Shadow Health Simulation

Overall, the shadow health experience helps students and other allied health professionals undergo experiential and patient-centered learning at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Some core aspects learned through shadow health simulations include diverse nursing concepts, best practices, and other patient health and safety goals.

Students build competencies around teamwork, patient-centered care, collaboration, delegation, professional privileges, quality improvement, patient safety, informatics, and evidence-based practice. It also widens the clinical reasoning capacity of nursing students. Students can collect objective and subjective data, establish therapeutic communication, and develop appropriate/targeted care plans.

Given its importance, it is vital for any student undertaking the standardized clinical experience via Shadow Health to succeed. As people who have interacted with the platform, assisted students in tackling the challenging aspects and seen its capability, we have compiled a list of tips to help you succeed in Shadow Health exercises.

General Tips to Succeed in a Shadow Health Assessment

You will be assigned to different clinical simulation exercises depending on your specialization and nursing school preferences. During the Digital Clinical Experience sessions, students can interview virtual patients, collect and synthesize findings on an electronic health record, and engage in debriefing activities after the virtual patient assessment. If you want to succeed in the entire set of activities, below are some tips:

1. Read the Instructions

Before undertaking any digital clinical experience simulations, the first step is to ensure that you understand the instructions.

If anything is unclear, consult your instructor early enough or inquire with your peers who might better understand.

Discover what steps to take and how to undertake every activity or submit the final results. If you are dealing with a specific patient, try to understand their patient history and the objective of the special assessment.

2. Prepare Well

To help you complete the assessment successfully, you must also familiarize yourself with the patient's symptoms, medical history, significant underlying health problems, last healthcare visit, allergies, and other relevant information.

3. Focus

When undertaking the assessment, stay free from distractions such as the urge to check your phone, noises in the room, or straying away from your screen.

To complete the exercises, you must select a distraction-free environment. Otherwise, you risk missing the main points and ideas.  

If the purpose of the assessment is to obtain a pre-employment physical before initiating employment, ensure that you understand how to facilitate or complete such assessments.

4.  Maintain Professionalism

Even as a student, you act professionally when undertaking shadow health exercises. You will be assigned a role in which you are expected to embrace and facilitate all the required acts of professionalism.

Therefore, ensure you are respectful, empathetic, and professional when communicating and interacting with the patients.

You should also mind your non-verbal cues and language use, considering you are handling a live-like patient in a digital clinical setting. Know how to approach the patient.

For instance, if you are following up about birth control or asking about their last healthcare visit, let the patient know why you are asking that question. You should also assess the patient's health literacy level to choose your words carefully when engaging them in patient education.

5. Ask Important Questions

When gathering subjective data, ask the patient questions. Be keen when they answer so that you can listen to their answers and follow up with a question or comment.

You should avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions because that might affect the entire patient care process.

The only way to know about the underlying health problem is by asking questions related to health concerns.

You could ask, “What brings you to the clinic today?” “do you know where you are now?” “do you have any allergies?” etc.

6. Document the Findings

After collecting the data or information, ensure you document the findings wholly and accurately to have a complete electronic health record. There are templates and tools to facilitate the documentation.

So, take advantage and have everything documented. Document all the current acute health problems based on the chief complaint and the patient's presenting condition.

7. Be attentive to Details

The devil is always in the details. As a nursing student and an aspiring professional nurse, you need to be very keen when handling the patient, especially when establishing and terminating a therapeutic relationship, collecting data, and making clinical judgments.

You should actively be attentive to the patient's physical appearance, changes in the patient's condition, and the patient's responses. For instance, when interviewing the patient, check whether the patient maintains eye contact. Also, please inquire more about any acute concerns.

8. Review and Reflect

Every simulation exercise has a student performance index that enables you to assess areas in which you have strength and areas you need to improve.

You are given real-time feedback and allowed to reflect on the entire experience. Therefore, reflect on what you could have done differently or better during the exercise.

9. Keep Practicing

If you are taking the shadow health assessment, you must constantly practice the skills you need for the evaluation.

You can collect subjective and objective data in front of your peers and let them give you feedback in preparation for the DCE. That way, you get to improve your performance.

10. Keep everything Organized

During the DCE sessions, ensure that you keep track of every piece of information you collect so that you are not confused when making clinical judgments.

You should be aware of the questions you asked, the responses you received, and the actions you took.

These general tips can be helpful, especially when you want a better grade. They will also increase your chances of succeeding in Shadow Health assessments and help you gain knowledge and skills in patient assessment.

Tips for Taking Patient's History in Shadow Health

Developing a comprehensive health history is anchored in some of the nursing theories. Therefore, a nurse practitioner must conduct a history-taking exercise to facilitate patient-centered, safe, and quality care. Interviewing the patient allows you to collect subjective data. As you interview, ensure that you take notes and review the objective data on the patient charts, electronic health records, and other documentation. Just like in real-life situations, here is how to proceed with history-taking activity in shadow Health:

  1. Introduce yourself to the patient and identify them as you seek consent to speak to them. If you are taking any notes, ask for the patient's permission. Take as much patient biodata as possible, including their marital status, occupation, age, gender, name, etc. Check who is accompanying them during the assessment.
  2. Focus on the client's chief complaint by asking what brings them to the Shadow Health general clinic. Subjective data from the patient will help you determine their chief complaint.
  3. Try to gain as much information as you can about the specific complaint. If you are examining pain, you can use the SOCRATES question approach outlined below:
  1. Check on the past medical history of the patient. Check if the patient has missed any immunizations, had lifestyle issues, or had illnesses in the past.
  2. Collect data about drug history. Inquire from the patient about the medications they are taking, including dosage and how often they are taking them. Also, find out if they have any allergies.
  3. Ask about the patient's family history. For instance, ask about a history of cancer, diabetes, obesity, or cardiac issues. Ensure that you inquire about any genetic conditions within the family.
  4. Ask questions about the patient's social history, including their background, use of illegal substances, whom they live with, and their social life.
  5. Gather and review information about the main systems, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, GI, neurological, Genitourinary or renal systems, musculoskeletal, and psychiatry.
  6. Summarize the history by reviewing what the patient has told you and repeating the important points to the patient so that they can correct you or make corrections if there are misunderstandings.
  7. Conclude by asking if the patient has questions.

Good patient history is integral when writing a SOAP note. And comprehensive patient-centered care is permanently fused with a physical examination. Let's look at some tips to use during physical examination.

Tips for Physical Examination in Shadow Health Assessment

You might wonder how you will physically examine a digitally standardized patient. When immersed in the simulation exercises, you assume yourself as a professional nurse solving the healthcare needs of patients in the digital clinical setting. There are commands you use to facilitate the physical examination. You will follow the head-to-toe nursing assessment approach when conducting a full-body exam on the patient. Physical examination entails an exhaustive examination to check the health status of all the major body systems. In the case of Shadow Health, you will be conducting a problem-focused assessment to develop specific care goals. You must know when to inspect, palpate, percuss, or auscultate. Below are the essential tips:

  1. Begin by obtaining a general overview of the patient's health status. You can do this by:
  2. Collecting vital signs including:
    • Checking heart rate
    • Measuring blood pressure
    • Taking body temperature
    • Respiratory rate
    • Pain levels assessment
    • Measuring height and weight and calculating BMI
    • Pulse oximetry
    • Blood glucose levels
    • Blood pressure
  3. Check the hair, skin, and nails. Check facial and body hair, abnormal hair growth, scalp tenderness, hair distribution, rashes on the skin, edema, pressure areas, bruising, lesions, and skin texture.
  4. Assess the head. Check the shape and palpate for nodules, masses, or depressions.
  5. Examine the eyes. Test peripheral vision, assess eye symmetry, perform a visual acuity test, and check the conjunctive and sclera.
  6. Examine the nose. Palpate the nose and check its symmetry, check the septum and inside nostrils, check the sense of smell, and palpate sinuses.
  7. Examine the mouth and throat. Check lips for color and moistness, inspect teeth and gum, look at the uvula and tonsils, assess the hypoglossal nerve, and the patient’s ability to swallow or taste.
  8. Examine the ears. Check for drainage or abnormalities, test hearing, and look inside.
  9. Palpate the lymph nodes and check the neck and head movements.
  10. Examine the chest (cardiovascular assessment). Listen to the heartbeat and palpate the carotid. Also, auscultate apical pulse.
  11. Assess the respiratory system by auscultating the lungs, observing chest expansion, and palpating the thorax.
  12. Assess the abdomen by inspecting it, listening to bowel sounds in all quadrants, palpating the four quadrants, and asking about bowel or bladder issues.
  13. Check the extremities. Assess gait, handgrip strength, and palate the pedal and radial pulses.
  14. Inspect the back area and spine and the buttocks or coccyx.

A proper head-to-toe assessment should be accompanied by proper communication and documentation. The Shadow Health suite allows you to simulate each of these aspects.

What Next after Knowing all These?

If you are a nursing student seeking to revamp their grades by performing exemplarily well in Shadow Health assessments, these tips will be helpful. Remember, this is not a simulation exercise you should fumble around with. It is an exercise that prepares you for practice. With leniency in submission, where you are given two chances, you can always get the facts and steps right.

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But that is never an issue in most cases. The main problem is whether you have time to complete it by yourself. Many nursing students struggle with too many assignments and papers, and adding the assessment to the equation only worsens the situation. Not to worry because we have a solution.

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