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Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this exploratory research was to investigate the use of simulation in physiotherapy curricula across Australia and New Zealand. The key areas of focus were whether simulation was being used, the forms of simulation used for training and assessment, evidence for educational simulation practices, and the enablers and barriers to implementing simulation into the curricula. Method: All Australian and New Zealand Universities offering a physiotherapy degree were invited to participate in an electronic survey. As no pre-existing tool was available to answer the aims of the study, a custom designed survey was developed. The survey was pilot tested on three physiotherapy academics to limit ambiguity and ensure the questions directly related to the purpose of the study. An introductory invitation was circulated via the Council of Physiotherapy Deans Australia and New Zealand. Open and closed ended questions were analyzed following a sequential explanatory strategy. Results: Fourteen (14) of the possible 22 universities (64%) responded, with all indicating that they use simulation for training or assessment and many using it for both. All core areas of clinical practice were represented, as were low to high-fidelity forms of simulation. Role play (77%), low/medium fidelity manikins (77%), and standardized patients (62%) were the most frequently used for training. Role play (73%), standardized patients (45%), objective structured clinical examinations (45%), and low/medium fidelity manikins (37%) were the most frequently used modalities for assessment. The key enablers appear to be availability of equipment, academic support, growing evidence for its use, safety, and positive student experiences. The key barriers appear to be time, cost, and access to trained staff and equipment. Conclusions: Academics across Australia and New Zealand described simulation practices for both training and assessing physiotherapy students. Academics were able to identify a limited but expanding evidence-base for simulation, more strongly focused on training than simulation-based assessments. Recommendations: Further research may justify increased investment of time, money, resources, and training in different simulation modalities.

Author Bio(s)

Tayne Ryall, MEd (HPE), BPhysio, is a PhD candidate at University of Canberra and a registered physiotherapist working as the Acute Physiotherapy Clinical Educator at Canberra Hospital, Australia.

Elisabeth Preston, PhD, MPT, is a physiotherapist and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra. Her research interests are in stroke, Parkinson’s disease and tertiary education.

Niruthikha Mahendran, PhD, BPhty (Hons 1), is a lecturer in Physiotherapy at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Queensland.

Bernie Bissett, PhD, Bachelor of Applied Science, Physiotherapy, GCTE, FHEA, is an Associate Professor and the Discipline Lead for Physiotherapy at the University of Canberra, and a visiting academic physiotherapist at Canberra Health Services.

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