Introduction A reported advantage of simulation-based learning environments (SLE) over clinical placements (CPs) is that the former can provide a greater number and breadth of opportunities to practice level-appropriate clinical skills compared with the random patient presentations provided during the latter. Although logical and widely accepted as fact, we find no published evidence to demonstrate the magnitude, nor indeed veracity, of this assumption. We therefore sought to quantify the clinical skills practiced by entry-level paramedicine students attending a well-selected CP compared with an equal dosage of SLE.
Methods N=37 first-year paramedicine students completed activity diaries during 3 days of CP and 3 days of SLE. Opportunities to practice clinical skills were quantified and coded as either: level-appropriate, beyond-level or of non-discipline relevance.
Results During SLE, the average student was exposed 226 times to 11 level-appropriate clinical procedures. During CP the average student was exposed 48 times to 24 clinical procedures, the majority relevant to paramedicine (63%), but a minority level-appropriate (38%). Students’ opportunities for supervised, ‘hands on’ practice represented only 10% of exposures in either SLE or CP but in terms of raw numbers of level-appropriate opportunities, SLE provided more than CP (n=23 vs 2).
Discussion Our results confirm that SLE provides substantially more opportunities than CP for students to practice level-appropriate skills and is therefore more appropriate for repetitive practice. However, CP is likely to remain useful to students for practicing interpersonal skills and contextualisation of knowledge within the broader health system. Educators should therefore carefully articulate learning objectives before choosing between SLE and CP.
- clinical skills practice
- early-stage students
- clinical placement
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