The COVID-19 pandemic caused various challenges to the academic setting, especially for health care programs that require face-to-face (F2F) interactions to learn psychomotor skills. Simulation is often used to integrate didactic knowledge and enhance psychomotor skills to prepare students for clinical education experiences. The purpose of this study was to compare student confidence and interest in setting type prior to a first clinical education experiences between students who completed an F2F peer simulation course and students who completed the course virtually.
Subjects included second-year doctor of physical therapy students who participated in the F2F course in 2019 (n = 37) and those who completed the virtual course in 2020 (n = 36). A 5-item pre- and postcourse self-assessment was administered to evaluate student confidence and interest in the acute care setting. A factorial analysis of variance was used to examine confidence scores of both cohorts at pre- and postcourse assessment.
Confidence rating of students from both cohorts significantly improved from precourse to postcourse in all areas, indicating that all students showed improved perceived confidence in their clinical skills upon completion of the course. However, the ratings of “ability to respond to changes in patient status in the acute care setting” were significantly greater in the F2F cohort than in the virtual cohort at the end of the course. There was also a positive interaction effect of cohort year (delivery mode) indicating that the F2F cohort had a stronger response in level of perceived confidence compared with the virtual cohort. In addition, student interest in the acute care setting was significantly greater at postcourse assessment for students from both cohorts.
Postcourse rating of student-perceived confidence in clinical skills performance and interest in the acute care setting improved regardless of the mode of delivery of the course. However, when examining student-perceived confidence levels to respond to change in patient status, students who participated in the F2F course felt more confident in their ability to do so. Although perceived confidence levels improved for all students, virtual learning of clinical skills may not be as effective in training students to safely treat complex patients in the acute care setting.