Despite increased attention in recent years to audiology counseling education, students remain concerned about their abilities to interact with patients in challenging situations, such as when breaking difficult news. Simulated patients, or actors trained to portray patients in clinical scenarios, have been used for many years in medical schools to teach and assess students' interpersonal skills, and are just beginning to be used in audiology programs. Although research suggests that medical students value simulated patient experiences, little is known about whether the same is true for audiology students.Purpose:
The purpose of this study was to survey audiology students who had completed a simulated patient counseling experience as part of their graduate coursework at Central Michigan University, to learn about their experiences and views of this instructional format.Research Design:
This study used descriptive and comparative statistics to report student observations and to determine if student responses to evaluative questions differed from chance.Study Sample:
Study participants included 29 audiology students who had completed a “breaking difficult news” simulated patient experience as part of their required graduate coursework in patient counseling.Data Collection and Analysis:
Participants completed an online survey that included seven evaluative five-point Likert-scale questions about their simulated patient counseling experience. Participants also completed one multiple-choice question on suggestions for future simulated-patient sessions.Results:
For each of the seven evaluative questions, a majority of participants (76-100%) responded positively, agreeing or strongly agreeing that the experience was helpful to their learning. For each of these evaluative questions, a χ2 analysis revealed that the distribution of positive (i.e., strongly agree and agree) to nonpositive (i.e., neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree) responses differed significantly from chance (p < .0001, df = 1). The results also indicated that when asked which of several suggested clinical scenarios would be helpful for future sessions, simulations of challenging patient types (i.e., hostile, rambling, and noncommunicative patients) were supported by most (62-90%) respondents.Conclusions:
The results of the present study are consistent with findings of medical students' positive perceptions of simulated patient experiences as well as those previously reported for audiology students. Together, these data support the continued use of simulated patients as a method of instruction for audiology counseling education for breaking difficult news, and suggest a potential value of using simulated patient interactions for training counseling skills in other clinical situations and scenarios.