Simulation strengthens award win for CQU physio team

28 February 2022

An innovative approach to help students transition from the classroom to the clinic has seen CQUniversity physiotherapy academics recognised at the 2021 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT).

Ms Tanya Palmer' Dr Luke Heales' Dr Steven Obst' Mrs Sasha Job' Dr Vanesa Bochkezanian' Ms Samantha Swain' Mr Sean Ledger and Professor Anthony Schneiders' received a citation for an outstanding contribution to student learning.

Physiotherapy Clinical Education Coordinator and Lecturer' Tanya Palmer said the team was grateful to be acknowledged for their hard work and dedication to students.

"We as a team feel that we owe it to our students to prepare them best we can for their entry to the wide world of clinical practice'" Ms Palmer said.

"Unfortunately' we can only teach them so much in normal classroom teaching and the exponential leap in expectations from the classroom to the clinic can be a challenge for many physiotherapy students entering their first 'real' clinical placement.

"Because of this pressure' we were finding many students experienced high levels of stress and anxiety before' and during' their first clinical placement.

"Traditionally undergraduate students spend years learning physiotherapy theory and practical skills in a classroom' practising on healthy adults without pain.

"Then when they are suddenly thrust into unfamiliar and high-paced clinical settings where they are confronted with a real-life patient in agony' not surprisingly' students feel immense pressure to make the correct diagnosis and provide appropriate care."

To help support this transition' in 2016 the team introduced a unique and peer-to-peer driven simulation experience that streamlines the transition to the clinic for third-year physiotherapy students.

"We simulate the crazy world of a hospital or private practice physiotherapy with role-play actors and educators' to give the students a taste of what they will expect on their clinical placements'" she said.

"We run these on campus in a supportive and educationally sound and safe environment to foster student learning' self-confidence' and independence.

"Our students engage with the patient actors as if they are real patients and perform clinical examinations and treatment regimes under the supervision of a simulated clinical educator.

"The students enjoy the experience and learn so much from it' which is all we as academics can ask for."

To date' 127 physiotherapy students have transformed their self-confidence and clinical performance by completing the simulation program prior to entering their first clinical placement experience.

Ms Palmer thanked CQUniversity' both for putting forward their award nomination' and for the ongoing support in their program.

"Our program' unlike any other in Australia' aims to 'simulate' not just the 'patient' by using paid actors' but also the 'clinical educator' by using a mix of academic staff' local physiotherapists' and importantly' recent' and soon to be graduated CQU fourth-year physiotherapy students to role-play as the clinical educator'" she said.

"Without the financial support from CQUniversity to fund the actors and our lab technicians for assisting with preparation and running of the simulation blocks' we as academics couldn't offer this amazing experience to our students."