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An Observational Study of a Simulation-Based Cross-Discipline Learning Activity Between Theater Arts and Physical Therapy Students

Dennis, Diane M., PhD; Parry, Sharon, PhD; Miolin, Philip, Grad Dip Ed; Mercer, Leah, PhD; Furness, Anne, MAppSc

doi: 10.1097/SIH.0000000000000359
Empirical Investigations: PDF Only

Introduction Professional actors are often used to portray simulated patients during healthcare professional training. This study aimed to create an activity where physical therapy (PT) and theater arts (TA) students could address discrete learning outcomes in a common setting with mutual benefit.

Methods Mixed methods observational study of 246 university students (201 PT, 45 TA) undertaking a scenario involving the provision of a clinical history. All students completed a 5-question qualitative survey relating to the activity, and each group scored themselves and each other using an observer rubric rating performance from 1 (do not agree) to 10 (agree).

Results For PT students, the range of means (SDs) across the five questions were significantly different (P < 0.001) with 6.2 (1.6) to 6.8 (1.4) for self-assessment and 8.2 (1.4) to 8.7 (1.1) for TA assessment of PT. For TA students, across all repetitions and all questions, the mean (SD) was 7.6 (1.5) for self-assessment and 7.9 (1.2) for PT assessment of TA, representing a significant difference (P < 0.001). After initial enactment, there was a significant improvement in TA self-assessment of performance (P = 0.002), but thereafter, there was no significant difference over time (P = 0.114).

Qualitative data analysis revealed the following three themes common to both groups: worthiness, authenticity/realism, and anxiety/confidence. The PT students also identified history-taking skills and the importance of patient/PT relationships. The TA students identified learning around character portrayal, improvisation, and concentration.

Conclusions This study describes a simulation-based learning activity undertaken within existing infrastructure with complementary learning objectives for both TA and PT students that was realistic and engaging.

From the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (D.M.D., S.P., A.F.), and School of Theatre Arts (P.M., L.M.), Curtin University; and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (D.M.D.), Perth, Western Australia, Australia.

Reprints: Diane M. Dennis, PhD, School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Bldg 408, Kent St, Bentley, WA 6102, Australia (e-mail:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2019 Society for Simulation in Healthcare