Simulation in Physiotherapy

When we conjure up images of “Simulation”, we might think of fighter pilots in a jet plane simulator capsule, or Japanese classrooms with schoolchildren practicing their earthquake drills. However, the development of Simulation based Learning in Healthcare, is a concept being employed increasingly across many disciplines. There has been an increased uptake in the use of simulation to provide AHP students with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need for independent practice. To address the challenges of developing the future workforce and pressure on finding placements, Physiotherapy at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) has enhanced its use of simulations using actors to play the patients.

A simulation scenario is an artificial representation of a real-world event to achieve educational goals through experiential learning. Simulation Based Education (SBE) addresses technical competencies alongside the softer human skills necessary to become effective person-centred practitioners.

Using the analogy of theatre, simulation design is like a stage production, requiring a script writer, a story board, the cast and technical crew, a director, stage manager, set, props, costume and sound. The volunteers are coached on their case presentation, rehearsals are scheduled and then simulation day arrives. The life-like clinical scenario offers the physiotherapy students a vibrant opportunity to practice vital inter-professional and person-centred care, in the safety of the mock-up ward or clinic. Simulated patients (SPs) are engaged from a registered bank of SCSC volunteers, or from local amateur dramatics clubs or enthusiastic lecturers with hidden thespian talents.

A variety of modalities were utilised to promote an immersive learning environment including, a high-fidelity manikin, however, the greatest assets were the volunteers who played SPs. The use of actors enhances the realism of scenarios and adds richness and depth for the students to grow. This fully interactive, guided experience helps the students to connect emotional and cognitive learning to maximise knowledge transfer into clinical practice. The SPs were employed in live role play as well as giving student feedback during the concluding debrief.

Alongside measurable improvements in confidence, Student feedback has been very positive with a general theme of “we want more of this!” Next steps include more Interprofessional simulation with OT, Social Work and Nursing collaboration and the introduction of video consultation and Telehealth skills, in line with the Scottish Government’s “Digital Health Strategy”.  We are also delighted to welcome a new Professor of Simulation to ENU.

The ability to target key aspects of clinical practice and recreate or amplify them in an authentic environment is what makes simulation such a powerful learning tool. By deepening our understanding of ourselves, proficiency and aptitude can be developed, to facilitate high quality, safe, person-centred practice. We believe that by establishing simulation-based learning within the Physiotherapy course, our students will graduate as more competent clinicians, able to provide a high standard of patient care.

Next time you find yourself over acting when you bang your funny bone or languishing in an Oscar performance of man flu’ please consider offering us your time as a simulated patient!

Lynne Turnbull, Clinical Tutor

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