How effective is the use of simulation in occupational therapy education?

Simulation can be a valuable tool in educating for the health professions, to prepare students before they go into a clinical practice environment on placement by providing them with a replicated experience in a safe and controlled environment to facilitate the application of their learning. But how effective are simulations? Could simulation be used more? And if so, what works well? 

Professor Yvonne Thomas and UK occupational therapist and doctoral student, Terri Grant, along with two co-authors, reviewed the use of simulation in occupational therapy education. They identified 32 papers internationally on this topic between 2009 and 2020, of which 24 reported post-simulation evaluations of student experience. Simulation took many different forms, including interactive options with a mannequin, someone playing the role of patient, or virtual reality. The review also covered some use of non-interactive simulation, for example a video- or text-based case study, which can still provide valuable learning opportunities.

The scoping review revealed that students received simulation positively, and found that practising professional skills with simulated patients and mannequins enhances professional identity, communication skills, critical thinking and decision making. There is good evidence that simulation is effective in developing professional identity and self-efficacy where there is a high level of fidelity to real life. There is potential for simulation to be used both as preparation for practice and as an effective replacement for placements, when focussed on professional competencies.

April 2022