Simulation in PT Education Strategic Initiative Panel: Initial Report on National Survey of Programs.


In 2018 ACAPT formed a Strategic Initiative Panel to evaluate the use of simulation in entry-level physical therapist (PT) education. The Panel was charged to investigate and describe the current use of simulation within entry-level PT education. The purpose of this session is to present the initial findings of a survey of CAPTE-accredited programs in the U.S. conducted by the Panel. The purposes of this study were to determine and describe the state of simulation use in PT education programs nationally and to compare those findings to the literature on standards of best practice (SOBP) from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) and the Association of Standardized Patient Educators (ASPE).


The Panel developed a survey to investigate the use of simulation within CAPTE-accredited PT education programs in the U.S. The survey went through several revisions based upon feedback from the nine Panel members, all of whom were PT educators who use simulation regularly in their work setting. The survey included questions related to use of simulation, available resources and the use of best practice patterns as described by INACSL and ASPE. In fall 2019 we sent an email, and three weekly reminders, to the program chairs at all CAPTE-accredited PT programs in the U.S. [N=225] requesting contact information for the faculty who could best respond to our survey on the use of simulation in their program. We received contact information from 136 programs [response rate = 60.4%]. In January 2020, an email containing a link to our survey was sent to the list of contacts [n=136]. All undelivered and returned emails were re-routed to the program chairs at those PT programs. Weekly reminders were sent for three weeks. Data was exported into an Excel spreadsheet and used for descriptive statistics.


We received 81 completed surveys [response rate=59.6%] representing 36% of all CAPTE-accredited programs and all geographic regions of the country with roughly equal participation from public and private institutions. While 21% of respondents reported their programs were not associated with a medical school or nursing program, 37% of programs were affiliated with a medical school and a nursing program and 36% were affiliated with a nursing program but not a medical school. Almost all respondents [92.5%] reported use of simulation and access to a simulation center, although only 2.6% reported their simulation center was located in the physical therapy department. According to 86% of respondents, students participated in three or more different simulation scenarios throughout the curriculum. While simulation commonly included the use of a manikin, simulation also included the use of task trainers, standardized patients, confederates, virtual reality, augmented reality and computer-based programs. Simulations were most frequently developed for cardiovascular & pulmonary content in acute care and ICU practice settings and commonly included content related to communication skills and interprofessional education (IPE). Nursing was the most common colleague for IPE, but occupational therapy and medicine were also frequently included. Debriefing following simulation was reported by 93% of respondents, but the debriefing format and training of debriefers were variable. Some elements of simulation described by respondents paralleled the SOBP reported by INACSL and ASPE while some elements; e.g., the debriefing format and the use of interdisciplinary teams for debriefing, could be more closely aligned with those standards to improve student learning outcomes.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

Simulation is an educational strategy that is used to promote excellence in PT education across multiple practice areas and settings leading to enhanced student learning and improved patient experiences. The results of this survey suggests that the vast majority of entry-level PT students from responding programs are participating in 3 or more simulations during their academic career. This study shows that many of the simulation practices utilized do follow SOBP, while some elements and attributes could be modified to improve learning outcomes for students.

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  • Control #: 26586
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Bradley Stockert
  • Keywords:

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