First-year physiotherapy students who elect to participate in simulation-based learning activities benefit from the experience


  • Diane Dennis Curtin University
  • Leo Ng Curtin University
  • Anne Furness Curtin University



simulation, simulation-based learning, physiotherapy


Introduction: Simulation-based learning (SBL) activities are beginning to be effectively incorporated into physiotherapy entry-level curricula, and there is evidence suggesting they should be introduced early in order to facilitate later complex learning. The aims of the study were to implement SBL into the first-year physiotherapy programme and to evaluate subsequent practical performance of both technical and non-technical skills and the extent to which students valued and enjoyed the experience.Methods: During first semester of 2015, 149 first-year physiotherapy students, enrolled at Curtin University, participated in SBL scenarios involving implementation and practice of clinical skills taught in their practical class. Students then completed a questionnaire rating their enjoyment of the activity. Final marks for the middle and end of semester practical assessments were collated, and these marks were cross referenced to the SBL activity attendance records. Results: Those students who attended both SBL activities failed on fewer occasions (p = 0.001) and scored significantly higher than those who had attended one or none (p < 0.001). The majority of students felt that the SBL activities were a positive learning experience (85%) that created a realistic environment (74%) with realistic simulated participants (78%). Students most valued having a “real” age-appropriate patient in a realistic clinical setting with whom they undertook a relevant task.Conclusions: First-year physiotherapy undergraduate students enjoyed SBL activities and benefitted from them in terms of their practical assessment mark and grade.


Ballangrud, R., Hall Lord, M., Hedelin, B., & Persenius, M. (2013). Intensive care unit nurses' evaluation of simulation used for team training. Nursing in Critical Care, 19(4), 175–184.

Barsuk, J., Cohen, E., Feinglass, J., McGaghie, W., & Wayne, D. (2009). Use of simulation-based education to reduce catheter-related bloodstream infections. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(15), 1420–1423.

Bond, W. F., & Spillane, L. (2002). The use of simulation for emergency medicine resident assessment. Academic Emergency Medicine, 9(11), 1295–1299.

Chang, J.-Y., Chang, G.-L., Chien, C.-J. C., Chung, K.-C., & Hsu, A.-T. (2007). Effectiveness of two forms of feedback on training of a joint mobilization skill by using a joint translation simulator. Physical Therapy, 87(4), 418–430.

Davis, A., Kimble, L., & Gunby, S. (2014). Nursing faculty use of high-fidelity human patient simulation in undergraduate nursing education: A mixed-methods study. The Journal of Nursing Education, 53(3), 142–150.

Evans, L., Dodge, K., Shah, T., Kaplan, L., Siegel, M., Moore, C., . . . D'Onofrio, G. (2010). Simulation training in central venous catheter insertion: Improved performance in clinical practice. Academic Medicine, 85(9), 1462–1469.

Fanning, R., & Gaba, D. (2007). The role of debriefing in simulation-based learning. Simulation in Healthcare: Journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, 2(2), 115–125.

Fejzic, J., & Barker, M. (2015). Implementing simulated learning modules to improve students' pharmacy practice skills and professionalism. Pharmacy Practice, 13(3), 583–583.

Garrett, B., MacPhee, M., & Jackson, C. (2010). High-fidelity patient simulation: Considerations for effective learning. Nursing Education Perspectives, 31(5), 309–313.

Henneman, E., Roche, J., Fisher, D., Cunningham, H., Reilly, C., Nathanson, B., & Henneman, P. (2010). Error identification and recovery by student nurses using human patient simulation: Opportunity to improve patient safety. Applied Nursing Research, 23(1), 11–21.

Ironside, P. M., Jeffries, P. R., & Martin, A. (2009). Fostering patient safety competencies using multiple-patient simulation experiences. Nursing Outlook, 57(6), 332–337.


Issenberg, S. B., McGaghie, W., Petrusa, E., Lee Gordon, D., & Scalese, R. (2005). Features and uses of high-fidelity medical simulations that lead to effective learning: A BEME systematic review. Medical Teacher, 27(1), 10–28.

Johannesson, E., Silén, C., Kvist, J., & Hult, H. (2013). Students' experiences of learning manual clinical skills through simulation. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 18(1), 99–114.

Kelly, M., Hager, P., & Gallagher, R. (2014). What matters most? Students' rankings of simulation components that contribute to clinical judgment. The Journal of Nursing Education, 53(2), 97–101.

Lee, S., Pardo, M., Gaba, D., Sowb, Y., Dicker, R., Straus, E., . . . Knudson, M. (2003). Trauma assessment training with a patient simulator: A prospective, randomized study. Journal of Trauma, 55(4), 651–657.

McGaghie, W., Issenberg, B., Petrusa, E., & Scalese, R. (2010). A critical review of simulation-based medical education research: 2003–2009. Medical Education, 44, 50–63.

McLaughlin, S. A., Doezema, D., & Sklar, D. P. (2002). Human simulation in emergency medicine training: A model curriculum. Academic Emergency Medicine, 9(11), 1310–1318.

Morgan, P. J., Cleave-Hogg, D., McIlroy, J., & Devitt, J. H. (2002). Simulation technology: A comparison of experiential and visual learning for undergraduate medical students. Anesthesiology, 96(1), 10–16.

Mori, B., Carnahan, H., & Herold, J. (2015). Use of simulation learning experiences in physical therapy entry-to-practice curricula: A systematic review. Physiotherapy Canada, 67(2), 194–202. doi:10.3138/ptc.2014-40E

Ohtake, P., Lazarus, M., Schillo, R., & Rosen, M. (2013). Simulation experience enhances physical therapist student confidence in managing a patient in the critical care environment. Physical Therapy, 93(2), 216–228.

Rickles, N. M., Tieu, P., Myers, L., Galal, S., & Chung, V. (2009). The impact of a standardized patient program on student learning of communication skills. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 73(1), 4.

Sabus, C., Sabata, D., & Antonacci, D. (2011). Use of a virtual environment to facilitate instruction of an interprofessional home assessment. Journal of Allied Health, 40(4), 199–205.

Shinnick, M., Woo, M., & Mentes, J. (2011). Human patient simulation: State of the science in prelicensure nursing education. The Journal of Nursing Education, 50(2), 65–72.

Smith, N., Prybylo, S., & Conner-Kerr, T. (2012). Using simulation and patient role play to teach electrocardiographic rhythms to physical therapy students. Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal, 23(1), 36–42.

Steadman, R., Coates, W., Huang, Y., Matevosian, R., Larmon, B., McCullough, L., & Ariel, D. (2006). Simulation-based training is superior to problem-based learning for the acquisition of critical assessment and management skills. Critical Care Medicine, 34(1), 151–157.

Traynor, M., Gallagher, A., Martin, L., & Smyth, S. (2010). From novice to expert: Using simulators to enhance practical skill. British Journal of Nursing, 19(22), 1422–1426.

Weller, J. M., Nestel, D., Marshall, S. D., Brooks, P. M., & Conn, J. J. (2012). Simulation in clinical teaching and learning. The Medical Journal of Australia, 196(9), 594. doi:10.5694/mja10.11474