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‘It’s the ultimate observer role…you’re feeling and seeing what’s happening to you’: students’ experiences of peer simulation
  1. Shane A Pritchard1,
  2. Narelle Dalwood1,
  3. Jennifer L Keating1,
  4. Debra Nestel2,
  5. Maxine Te3,
  6. Felicity Blackstock3
  1. 1 Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Frankston, Australia
  2. 2 Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
  3. 3 School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Shane A Pritchard, Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria, Australia; shane.pritchard{at}


Introduction Simulation-based education (SBE) benefits learners, but multiple barriers limit curriculum integration. Peer simulation, where students are formally educated to portray patient roles in simulated interactions with their peers, might maintain the educational benefits of SBE, be cost-effective, and enable additional learning. Our research question was: ‘What are the perspectives and experiences of physiotherapy students who participated in peer simulation?’.

Methods Second-year physiotherapy students (n=16) participated in a blended peer simulation programme that included preparation for patient role portrayal and simulated clinical interactions with peers. Using an interpretivist approach, students’ experiences and perspectives were explored in two focus groups. Inductive thematic analysis was completed by two researchers.

Results Three primary themes were identified that characterised the experiences and perspectives of physiotherapy students: peer simulation is a valuable learning experience, specific design features enable effective peer simulation, and portraying a patient provides unique insight. Peer simulation was unexpectedly realistic, revealed knowledge and skill deficits, and improved their clinical skills. Specific design features included consistent engagement, repetitive, individualised practice, multiple forms of feedback, and detailed role preparation. Being the patient in peer simulation gave students unique and valuable insight into patients’ experiences of and feelings about health issues and healthcare interactions.

Conclusion Physiotherapy students acquire new insights during peer simulation that may enrich their capabilities for practice through understanding healthcare interactions from patients’ perspectives. Physiotherapy students’ learning in peer simulation appears to align with the powerful learning experiences of health professional students in other immersive simulation modalities.

  • Health professions education
  • Simulation-based education
  • Standardised patients (Actors)

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  • Twitter Shane Pritchard @pritchardsa and Debra Nestel @DebraNestel.

  • Contributors SAP (BPhysio, PhD) is a physiotherapist with interests in health professional education and research, especially simulated participant methodology and peer simulation. SAP was involved in study concept and design, data collection and analysis, and coordinated preparation of the manuscript; ND (BAppSc (Physio), Grad Dip Neuroscience, PhD candidate) is an experienced physiotherapy educator with interests in simulation-based education and research. ND was involved in study concept and design, data analysis, and preparation of the manuscript; JLK (BAppSc, PGDip Manip Physiotherapy, PhD) is a researcher and physiotherapy educator interested in evidence-based education and assessment. JLK was involved in study concept and design and preparation of the manuscript; DN (PhD) is a researcher and educationalist interested in healthcare simulation and faculty development. She has a particular focus on human-based and surgical simulation. DN was involved in study concept and design, data analysis, and preparation of the manuscript; MT (BPhysio, PhD candidate) is a physiotherapist with interests in health professional education and research. MT was involved in study concept and design, data analysis, and preparation of the manuscript; FB (BPhysio(Hons), PhD) has expertise is in simulation methodology for physiotherapy education, including SPs, validation of simulation for assessment, and curriculum design. FB was involved in study concept and design, data analysis, and preparation of the manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by funding from Health Workforce Australia (CTR12-010), a Catalysing Innovation and Learning Teaching grant from Western Sydney University, and an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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