Caring for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities: virtual patient instruction improves students’ knowledge and comfort level.

Nurses play a vital role in providing health care to children with developmental disability (DD) throughout the United States. Unfortunately, most nurses continue to report that they receive little or no clinical education in the area of DDs. In response to this need, a core development team consisting of nurse practitioners and nursing faculty from three universities, one physician assistant faculty, parents of children with DD, and educational specialists developed two multimedia (virtual patient) pediatric instructional modules in CD-ROM format–one involving a child with Down syndrome, and the other involving an infant born at 26 weeks’ gestation. Participants were required to make clinical decisions throughout the cases. The modules on CD were piloted with nursing students from three universities. Results of the effectiveness study demonstrated significant gains in knowledge and comfort level regarding the care of children with DD.