American Physican Therapy Combined Sections Meeting

Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Background and Purpose: Clinical simulation has been shown to be an effective method of teaching students in a controlled environment. Utilizing a realistic setting with built-in controls, allows students to practice skills, receive instructor feedback and complete self-assessments to refine performance prior to participation in terminal clinical education. Small group instructor-led debriefing is also an essential part of the process to facilitate reflection on performance. Currently there are very few published reports of multidisciplinary simulation including physical therapist assistant (PTA) students with high fidelity simulation mannequins and live standardized patients. Traditionally PTA students have very little, if any, actual contact with a multidisciplinary team to practice communication and interaction for efficient patient care prior to clinical education. This simulation experience brought together six different healthcare disciplines including respiratory care, paramedic, associate degree nursing, practical nursing, radiologic technology and PTA from one community college.

Objective: The purpose of this report is to describe the results of PTA students’ communication, critical thinking and confidence as well as their satisfaction, during a multidisciplinary simulation experience using a series of four scenarios of varying complexity.

Methods: PTA students (n=16) completed a series of four different simulations with both live patients and high fidelity simulation mannequins in conjunction with 113 allied health and nursing students at a community college during a four hour timeframe. All simulations were repeated seven times with different student groups over a four day period. Scenarios included one outpatient and three inpatients across the lifespan each with varying complexity that included an onset of a myocardial infarction during outpatient therapy, ICU transfer of a patient with a traumatic brain injury on mechanical ventilation, school age child with a fracture from suspected parental abuse, and a patient with COPD with abnormal vital sign response. PTA students were oriented prior to the experience and provided with a physical therapist evaluation and plan of care for each case. Following the simulation, students were surveyed about their knowledge, skill performance, learner satisfaction, critical thinking, self-confidence and communication. Instructor led-debriefing was also completed and qualitative results were collected.

Results: When questioned whether the multidisciplinary simulation was a valuable experience, 100% reported yes. High survey scores from students were also received in the categories of knowledge, skill performance, learner satisfaction, critical thinking, self-confidence and communication. Themes from the instructor-led debriefing comments included the value of teamwork and learning what other professions do by working together. Communication was further enhanced by a group mind-mapping activity during the simulations. Faculty from each program reported the experience was effective not only meeting the stated objectives but led to their own deeper understanding of other healthcare team members.

Conclusions/Discussion: This simulation allowed PTA students to experience real-life patient scenarios in a controlled environment in conjunction with a multidisciplinary team which complimented the PTA-only simulations completed earlier in the curriculum. It was a valuable learning activity for PTA students as it granted students additional practice to refine the necessary skills of professionalism, communication and teamwork to provide high quality patient care essential for clinical education and as future entry-level PTAs.