Utilizing Virtual Simulation to Develop Communication Skills of Physical Therapy Students


The purpose of this educational session is to explore the use of virtual simulation to develop communication skills of physical therapy students. This innovative teaching strategy offers faculty and students the unique opportunity to practice communication skills, receive immediate feedback from an interdisciplinary team, and immediately implement those strategies using virtual reality to bring authentic clinic experiences into the classroom.

Methods and/or Description of Project

This presentation will explore the utilization of virtual simulation as an innovative teaching strategy to develop communication skills in physical therapy students. Professionalism and communication skills are necessary to effectively discuss ideas, advocate for patients, and develop a mutual understanding of needs. Innovative teaching strategies are needed to prepare physical therapy students and other clinicians with skills needed to clearly and professionally communicate their recommendations, expectations, and needs of those in their care to multiple stakeholders. The presenters for this educational session will examine the use of virtual simulation in education for various healthcare disciplines and highlight the utilization of TeachLivE™ simulator as a teaching tool to develop interpersonal and interprofessional communication skills in physical therapy students.

Attendees will be invited to experience interacting with TeachLivE™ adult avatar during the presentation in order to fully appreciate the real time learning experience that the simulator affords all students with specific attention to the utility in healthcare programs. Strategies for utilizing virtual simulation as a tool and integrating into a physical therapy education program will be discussed, including development of clinical scenarios, student preparation, and tools for providing feedback. Special attention will be devoted to the utilization of the TeachLivE™ adult avatar to represent other professions such as speech language pathology, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work. In addition, the presentation will include strategies for using this technology to simulate interdisciplinary team meetings. Perceptions of students and faculty on these types of learning experiences will also be reviewed. The main focus of all experiences will be the use of this innovative teaching tool to develop communication skills in physical therapy students to enter clinical experiences. The presentation will conclude with a discussion with attendees on use of use of TeachLivE™, virtual simulators, and other innovative teaching strategies for improving communication skills and fostering interprofessional education representing various clinical practice settings.


Attendees of this session will learn the following:
1) Importance of communication and interprofessional learning experiences in physical therapy education
2) Evidence supporting the use of virtual simulators to develop professional skills and gaps in literature identifying the need for further development of innovative teaching strategies that replicate clinical settings
3) Strategies for utilization of a virtual simulator to develop communication skills and interprofessional education
4) Mechanisms for assessment of learning of communication skills and interprofessional education

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

This educational session is directly aligned with two of the conference’s major themes – “Fostering Clinical Reasoning: Classroom to Clinic to Residency,” and “Instructional Strategies for the Classroom and Clinic.” To maintain high levels of professional behavior within the field of physical therapy, students must be shown the importance of communication between clinicians and across disciplines (e.g., doctors, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, teachers, parents). Professionalism and interdisciplinary communication among physical therapy students needs to be developed and practiced through classroom and clinical experiences using a variety of learning devices. Interdisciplinary exercises, such as virtual simulation and role-playing, designed to effectively foster competence in professionalism and communication will help students develop the necessary skills to enhance their careers. The focus of this presentation will be development and implementation of innovative teaching strategies to develop communication skills of physical therapy students while providing an interprofessional educational experiences.


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Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:
1) Identify teaching strategies/ virtual simulators that afford learning opportunities for development of communication skills in physical therapy students.
2) Examine the utility of virtual simulation and interprofessional feedback in the development of communication skills in physical therapy students.
3) Discuss strategies for incorporating virtual simulator activities into physical therapy education
4) Identify evaluation and assessment tools for investigating the impact and learning outcomes from virtual simulator teaching activities.

Instructional Methods

Lecture / presentation, virtual simulator demonstration, small group discussion

Tentative Outline/Schedule

Overview of virtual simulators as a teaching tool 15 minutes
Evidence and gaps in literature
TeachLivE 25 minutes
Current models of implementation
Development of Teaching Activities 15 minutes
Implementation of Virtual Simulator 15 minutes
IPE Utilizing Virtual Simulator 10 minutes
Questions and Answers 10 minutes

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  • Control #: 2527685
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Jennifer Tucker, Dr. Patrick Pabian, Matthew Taylor, Claire Donehower, Lisa Dieker
  • Keywords:

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