The Use of Standardized Patients in Physical Therapist Education Programs

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Background and Purpose.To describe the prevalence and characteristics of the use of standardized patients (SPs) in APTA-accredited physical therapist education programs. SPs are commonly used in medical school curricula; however, the prevalence and characteristics of their use in physical therapist education programs are unknown.Subjects.197 US and Canadian physical therapist education programs.Methods.In fall 2005, a survey addressing the utilization of SPs was mailed to 197 US and Canadian physical therapist education programs. Respondents answered survey questions regarding the integration of SPs into their curriculum and the educational goals associated with the use of this teaching method. For those not using SPs, the survey addressed possible factors influencing this decision. These respondents were also queried regarding their awareness of the applicability of SPs as a teaching method. Finally, all respondents were asked if they were interested in learning more about SPs.Results.The response rate was 78%. Thirty percent of respondents reported using SPs in their curriculum, and, of those not using SPs, 76% expressed interest in utilizing this teaching method. Over the past 5 years, SP use in physical therapist education programs has more than doubled. Based on results from this survey, respondents most commonly cited using SPs to teach and/or evaluate interview skills and musculoskeletal testing and treatment. Restrictions of funds and constraints on faculty time were cited as the most common factors contributing to the non-use of SPs.Conclusions.In 2005, SPs were being used in almost one third of physical therapist education programs, and survey results suggest that the usage of this teaching method is increasing. These survey results can be used to help guide educators regarding the future development and implementation of SPs in physical therapist education programs.

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