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South African Journal of Occupational Therapy

On-line version ISSN 2310-3833
Print version ISSN 0038-2337

Abstract

VAN VUUREN, Santie. Reflections on simulated learning experiences of occupational therapy students in a clinical skills unit at an institution of higher learning. S. Afr. j. occup. ther. [online]. 2016, vol.46, n.3, pp.80-84. ISSN 2310-3833.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2310-3833/2016/v46n3/a13.

BACKGROUND: Global and national changes in healthcare create challenges in providing suitable and quality fieldwork placements for the skills training of undergraduate health professions students. The department of occupational therapy (OT) at a Higher Education Institute (HEI) in South Africa decided in 2013 to incorporate simulated learning experiences as part of the new curriculum for second-year occupational therapy students. Two staff members of the Department of OT trained by an international institution of higher education in the use of simulation during teaching were involved. The aim of this study was to explore and describe the experiences of those students who had benefitted from simulated learning in the Clinical Skills Unit (CSU) to improve on this method of obtaining clinical assessment skills. METHODS: A qualitative methodology was used to describe the reflections of the second-year occupational therapy students of the years 2013 and 2014 (81 students) on the simulated learning of assessment procedures which took place in the CSU RESULTS: Four themes and ten sub-themes were identified from the content analysis of the reflections, namely (i) personal experience (personal emotions, initial stress, confidence) (ii) Teaching and Learning clinical assessment skills (communication, occupational performance components [OPC] and occupational performance activities [OPA]); (iii) professional skills (therapeutic use of self, cooperative learning) and (iv) benefits and challenges of presenting simulated learning experiences (benefits, criticisms). CONCLUSIONS: Occupational therapy students reported a positive experience and satisfaction with learning from the simulated experiences, which succeeded in creating a "safe" learning environment for them and opportunities to hone their clinical assessment skills prior to their first clinical fieldwork placement. Challenges associated with simulated learning experiences (SLE) were found to be: the need for clearer instructions; the number of assessments covered and the provision of a time frame to complete each task. There was consensual agreement in the department that SLE in the CSU will supplement fieldwork placements and contribute to attainment of assessment skills prior to fieldwork placements. It is recommended that current occupational therapy lecturing staff, trained in the use of simulation techniques, develop a manual for the planning of SLE and present training sessions to other staff. The manual may also be of value to other institutions of higher learning in South Africa.

Keywords : Simulated learning experiences; clinical skills learning; undergraduate education.

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