The development of an empathetic approach when working with parents and families is fundamental to both social work and children’s nursing; however, opportunities to develop this are limited. RealCare infant simulation dolls were used with the aim of enabling students to gain an empathetic insight into parenting. A qualitative, evaluation study, involving semi-structured interviews with ten social work and eleven children’s nursing students, was undertaken to evaluate experiences and views of infant simulation dolls, in relation to professional learning. Using reflexive thematic analysis of interview data, key themes were identified: Positive experiences, challenges, impact on self, empathy with parents, realism and learning by reflection which were all evident from the participants’ accounts in the context of the parenting experience. Overall, as well as the positive impact on students, practical and technical challenges were also identified - however, aside from these difficulties, participants valued the learning experience gained from caring for a doll and many articulated how an empathetic understanding of the parenting role was enhanced. This will potentially enable social work and children’s nursing students to support parents more sensitively and empathetically.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhlad037
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalHealth and Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


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