An Experiential Virtual Dementia Tour Activity Improved Student Confidence in Working with Patients with Dementia


To determine differences in DPT student comfort level interacting with patients with dementia following a Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) experiential learning activity (ELA).


Students participated in the VDT ELA at a facility specializing in dementia. The hands-on VDT ELA consisted of physical and mental challenges similar to those experienced by this population. Forty year one DPT students participated. The investigators measured student attitudes towards people with dementia on the Dementia Attitudes Scale (DAS) pre-ELA (T0), post-ELA (T1), 9-months post-ELA immediately preceding first clinical rotation (T2), and 12-months post-ELA immediately following first clinical rotation (T3). The DAS consists of total score (DAS-Total) and sub-scales for knowledge (DAS-Know) and social comfort (DAS-Comfort).


The investigators compared scores over time. Median DAS-Total scores were: 100.00 at T0, 115.50 at T1, 111.50 at T2, and 117.50 at T3. Investigators found significant differences with very large effect sizes (d = 1.40, 1.27, 1.48) between T0 and all other data collection points. There was a significant difference with a large effect size (d = .82) between T2 and T3. Median DAS-Know scores were: 58.00 at T0, 64.00 at T1, 63.00 at T2, and 62.50 at T3. Investigators found significant differences with large-to-very large effect sizes (d = 1.19, 1.03, 1.01) between T0 and all other data collection points. Mean DAS-Comfort scores were: 42.53 at T0, 51.50 at T1, 50.45 at T2 and 54.37 at T3. A repeated measures ANOVA F(3,35) = 22.04, p <.01 indicated statistical significant difference across the four timepoints. Overall effect size was very large (d = 1.87). Investigators found significant differences between T0 and all other data collection points. There was a significant difference between T2 and T3. Large effect sizes between pre-ELA and all post-ELA surveys indicate significant improvement towards working with this population. Students maintained this improvement since there was no significant improvement nine months later. Unsurprisingly, DAS-Total and DAS-Comfort scores improved following clinical experience (T2 to T3) because the experience of treating a patient with dementia may improve the comfort level working with this population.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

VDT ELA interventions improved the knowledge and comfort of students working with patients with dementia. This improvement remained 9 months later. Comprehensive physical therapy curriculum that includes VDT ELAÕs may better prepare DPT students for managing this population. People with dementia face discrimination based on ignorance, and therapists may mistakenly believe they can do little to assist people with dementia (Reis, 2018). VDT ELAs help students gain a more comprehensive understanding of disease management and quality of life issues faced by those with dementia (Roberts & Noble, 2015). Improving health professionalsÕ comfort-level working with this population highlights the importance of patient centered care.

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  • Control #: 26516
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Brandy Schwarz
  • Keywords:

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