The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for clinical placements for Allied Health Professional (AHP) students. Consequently, we have needed to be creative to explore other ways to ensure students complete their 1,000 hours of clinical experience across the programme. A potential option is to use simulation to replace a portion of clinical hours. Evidence confirms that up to 25% of authentic physical practice with standardized simulated patients results in comparable student competency as assessed by an educator and that a 1-week period of simulation is effective in building students’ confidence before continuing with a placement in the clinical setting [1,2]
Our aim was to design, develop, implement and evaluate a multi-disciplinary simulation programme to prepare students with foundational placement skills. We sought to therefore reduce the burden on NHS staff. We also sought to determine the effect of the programme on student readiness for placement, student confidence, investigate stakeholder perceptions of the programme and determine the suitability of simulation in contributing to clinical hours.
Simulation-based educational (SBE) pedagogy and principles guided the programme design and included: pre-brief, simulation with regular time outs to enable rehearsal of an activity and debriefing for reflection. We employed actor role players to act as the patient, relative or carer and clinical educators to guide the students as they would on a traditional placement. We developed three generic patient case studies designed specifically to focus on the development of the key programme learning outcomes: developing patient-centred communication skills and professional behaviours. We adopted a mixed-methods approach in our research design, collecting quantitative data from student self-report pre–post questionnaires, clinical educator questionnaires and qualitative data from focus groups to address our research questions and aims.
A total of 29 Allied Health Professional students (from physiotherapy, occupational therapy and podiatry) completed a 5-day intensive simulation programme. The programme included an inter-professional ‘fishbowl simulation’ followed by 3 days of profession-specific clinical scenarios with profession-specific learning outcomes ending on the final day in six simulated multi-disciplinary team meetings. The sessions were interactive with simulated patients and their relative/carers giving authentic patient feedback from a patient perspective. We observed rich transformational learning observing students improve their communication skills and becoming more patient-centred in their approach. Preliminary student feedback indicates that they found the simulation programme challenging but extremely rewarding. Formal data analysis is continuing.