Emerging Need for Telehealth amid COVID19: Innovations in Physical Therapy Education Utilizing Simulated Learning Experiences


The didactic component of physical therapy (PT) education has traditionally encompassed courses that prepare students for face-to-face patient management skills to broaden student knowledge in settings that mirror current practice. Recently, provision of outpatient PT services via telehealth have gained momentum secondary to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.1, 2, 3 Similarly, PT programs have shifted to virtual environments due to social distancing mandates for infection control.4 Prior to this pandemic, telehealth simulated learning experiences (SLEs) were not largely utilized within the Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum in our University. The nationÕs recent challenges have required changes to teaching approaches and assessment methods via use of virtual learning environments and adaptations to traditional SLEs were made. A course entitled Patient Care Management III (PCMIII) utilizes SLE to augment student learning. The SLEs are useful for preparing students for clinical learning experiences and developing professional skills, including communication and critical thinking.5, 6, 7 Thus, importance remained in adapting SLEs to the professionÕs demands, while also meeting course learning objectives. This presentation describes the design, implementation, and assessment of a case-based PT telehealth SLE performed in a PCMIII.


PT telehealth SLEs targeted the development of student professional skills and clinical reasoning to complex cases in the out-patient setting. Learning outcomes included demonstration of: 1) professional practice behaviors, 2) patient management, 3) clinical reasoning, and 4) communication/patient education. Students accessed lecture units on pathophysiological conditions; simulation videos of other students performing complex evaluations; and debrief sessions, allowing student reflection. Students were given case scenario essential data for their assigned patient (portrayed by an instructor). StudentsÕ performance during fifty-minute simulations were assessed virtually using a grading rubric targeting a combination of skills outlined in the Clinical Performance Instrument (safety, professional behavior, communication, clinical reasoning, examination, and patient education).8 Verbal and written feedback was provided. Students submitted self-reflections of their performance.


Transitioning from face-to-face skills checkoffs to virtual assessments for large cohorts proved to be a learning curve for some students/faculty and intra-grader consistency was a concern. However, SLE proved to be a beneficial addition to didactic instruction.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

SLEs are useful for student clinical preparation,7, 9 but are often performed in the simulated live clinical environment.6,10 This presentation challenges the breadth of environments in which SLEs can be performed, and highlight simulation training in emerging areas of PT practice. With recent challenges to the healthcare delivery model, and infection control, exploring physical therapy delivery via telehealth shows students and clinicians the potential to provide care through alternative clinical environments. Research is limited involving telehealth SLE and student clinical preparedness; however faculty welcome new teaching modalities to deliver engaging content, relevant clinical practice, and real-life experiences.

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  • Control #: 26853
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Non-Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Kristy Demers
  • Keywords:

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