Investigating the Effectiveness of Using a Situated Simulation-Based Program to Improve Occupational Therapy Students' Interactions and Observation Skills with Children

Occup Ther Int. 2021 Nov 3;2021:1698683. doi: 10.1155/2021/1698683. eCollection 2021.


Purpose: Interaction and observation are critical skills for occupational therapists who work with pediatric clients. The objective of this study was to investigate whether using standardized child patients within a situated simulation-based (SSB) program increases students' knowledge and clinical skills when working with children in occupational therapy.

Materials and methods: This controlled trial with multiple measures recruited students from the pediatric occupational therapy curriculum enrolled in an SSB program in consecutive academic years (n = 62). Experimental group students participated in a simulation experience with video training sessions, followed by an SSB exam with standardized child patients; the control group performed the video training simultaneously. Quantitative outcomes included quizzes to measure clinical knowledge, video training scores, and a situated simulation exam to assess clinical skills.

Results: The experimental group had a significantly higher postwritten quiz scores than the control group; the video training scores were not significantly different between groups. Linear regression analysis showed a significant association between the SSB exam and postwritten quiz scores (β = 0.487, p = 0.017). The experimental group had a total pass rate of 65.6% for the SSB exam. The communication and interaction pass rate was 53.1%; the basic evaluation rate was 68.8%, implying that communication/interaction skills are hard to simulate from video training alone; therefore, the authentic fidelity of the SSB program needs to improve further to enhance learning.

Conclusions: The SSB program with standardized child patients improved students' clinical knowledge and skills more than lectures and practice alone. Using standardized child patients in programs or exams appears to positively influence students' performance. Situated simulation-based learning that allows the realistic practice of observation and communication skills may enhance students' clinical competency. Future research should develop standard training methods and evaluation processes in high-fidelity simulations for generalized use in other occupational therapy programs.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Occupational Therapy*
  • Students