Experiential Outdoor Activities Benefit PT Students and Stroke Survivors
Purpose: Experiential learning enhances student confidence, empathy and a holistic understanding of disability. Spending time in nature benefits persons with disabilities. No study has investigated the effect of experiential outdoor activities with stroke survivors and PT students. The purpose of this project was to assess the effects of outdoor nature walks that paired PT students with stroke survivors. Description: This project involved six 1st year PT students (Y1), six 2nd year PT students (Y2) and six stroke survivors (3 female, aged 40-69 years and 2-12 years post stroke). There were 2 experiential components: 1) Y2 students organized two nature walks with stroke survivors; 2) based on their experience, Y2 students created and delivered a training program for Y1 students followed by a 3rd stroke survivor nature walk with Y1/Y2 students. After each walk, everyone discussed their experience. Y2 students discussed their experience in a focus group. Summary of Use: Stroke survivors reported that working with the students was most beneficial with 2 themes emerging. 1) Students are enthusiastic, energetic and passionate. 2) Survivors felt they contributed to student knowledge (“This experience gave me the opportunity to make something positive out of my stroke”). Survivors also liked the cardiovascular activity and interacting with other survivors. Y2 students had increased confidence from teaching Y1 students. “It made me realize how much we have learned since we were Y1 students.” “I am more likely to be a CI in the future.” Students benefited from the experience in 5 primary areas. 1) Students learned the importance of listening. “We learn as much (if not more) from our clients as they learn from us.” 2) Students increased self awareness. “This was extremely eye opening. It isn’t about me. It’s about the client.” “I’m no longer inhibited to develop relationships with persons with disabilities.” 3) Students felt more empathy to the person as a whole especially with respect to community reintegration. “All environments are not ADA – their lives are challenging.” “You don’t know everything that’s going on in a person’s life.” 4) Students felt more prepared to treat future clients. “I will not limit future clients. They are capable of so much more than I expected.” “This experience improved my ability to meet clients where they’re at.” “This experience showed me how I can better individualize my treatments to help them in the home and community.” 5) Students also learned the importance of advocating for their professions and stroke survivors to receive ongoing therapy. “These survivors were years post stroke and still making progress.” Importance to Members: This program provided Y1 students the opportunity to interact with stroke survivors for the first time and Y2 students to deepen their knowledge and confidence. The activity allowed students to experience the person first, and disorder second. By simply walking and talking with each other, stroke survivors and PT students helped each other.