Preparing Physiotherapy Students for Clinical Placement: Student Perceptions of Low-Cost Peer Simulation. A Mixed-Methods Study
Simulation is increasingly used in health care education, yet the organizational and financial costs can be prohibitive. This study aimed to investigate whether peer simulation is perceived by third-year undergraduate physiotherapy students as valuable for clinical placement preparation.Methods
Third-year undergraduate physiotherapy students participated in a 9-week peer simulation program, using each other as patients, and were invited to complete two surveys evaluating perceptions of the program. The program consisted of weekly patient interactions during which students were required to assess and treat a “patient” under strict simulation guidelines and in accordance with stated learning objectives. Items rated included self-perceived skills, confidence, time management, and clinical placement readiness and included collection of qualitative responses. Surveys were released at commencement and completion of the simulation program.Results
Of 79 third-year students, 63% completed survey 1 and 66% completed survey 2. Students had high expectations of the program and these were consistently met. Peer simulation rated highly for all items, including identifying knowledge and skill deficits, and improving confidence, clinical reasoning, time management, and communication. Simulation was considered safe, supportive, engaging, and valuable for clinical placement preparation. Students identified some lack of authenticity when working with peers.Conclusions
Peer simulation was perceived by students as valuable in preparing them for clinical placement, despite a perceived lack of realism. These findings support the use of peer simulation as an alternative to the use of more formalized standardized patients in an undergraduate physiotherapy program. Further investigation is required to establish a detailed cost analysis of the program and to determine the amount of realism required to optimize the benefits of this promising educational strategy.