Physical Therapy: Assessing Communication Skills via Interactive Lab

Title: Assessment of communication skills and the change in knowledge and valuing of Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant students through completion of one interactive lab
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Physical Therapy
Authors: Erin Hussey, Paul Reuteman, Gwyn Straker, Michele Thorman (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse), Jeff Komay (Western Technical College – La Crosse), Carrie Rowan (student member from UW-La Crosse)
Date: May 22, 2008

Executive Summary

Purpose: The PT-PTA lesson study team designed a project to develop awareness and appreciation for professional and technically trained colleagues within the first year of each academic program. Both programs are housed in the Health Science Center. In the past, an interactive activity had occurred only within the final academic semester of each program so this project was designed to integrate these students earlier during their educational experience. As health care providers, PT assistants provide technically skilled assistance to the PT in providing services to consumers. Therefore, the learning activity was designed to improve student awareness of each others’ background training, clinical skills, and expected roles & responsibilities in work settings.

Learning Goals: The team developed five learning goals for the session that addressed how well students value the preferred PT-PTA relationship, recognize the educational rigor expected of each program, and experience an opportunity to and collaborate and learn from each other related to patient care activities.

Instructional Design: Within each program, students were introduced to the guiding principles for PT-PTA relationships on the basis of state statutes, the Wisconsin PT practice act, national professional policies, ethical guidelines, and consensus documents. Within the interactive lab, students managed one or more clinical cases (one case using role play in 2007 adjusted to 14 mini-cases using discussion in 2008) during which they had the opportunity to interact on educational background, clinical training, and to develop a mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Major Findings: The Lesson Study team concluded that this activity was worthwhile. The data and feedback indicate that students benefit from and value an opportunity to focus on PT and PTA backgrounds, clinical training, roles and responsibilities in an interactive manner. In addition, there were indicators that the format of the lesson plan for 2008 was more effective in achieving the learning goals when compared to data and feedback from 2007. Primary course instructors were encouraged to continue the lesson study process with further integration of content across the program in addition to continuing to hold one interactive lab at the end of the first academic year. A second lab session held later in the academic programs is recommended as follow-up with a focus on promoting a more advanced awareness of clinical roles relative to more complex clinical considerations.

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