BOONE, N.C. — Athletic training students at Appalachian State University recently put their skills to the test during a series of simulated clinical scenarios that took place on-site at the university’s Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences on April 12.
The scenarios, which were not disclosed to the students ahead of time, included:
- A patient overdosing on pain medication.
- A football player with a severe neck injury.
- A patient with a knee injury whose father simultaneously goes into cardiac distress.
- A patient with an open leg fracture.
- A patient with a case of appendicitis.
- A patient having an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
These simulations, officially known as Objective Structured Clinical Evaluations (OSCEs), increase students’ confidence, prepare them for independent clinical practice and allow them to gain experience as the lead clinician in a situation — a distinct experience for a student, said App State’s Laurie Rivera ’97, lead coordinator for OSCEs.
“My favorite part of the simulation is seeing students grow as clinicians and become more confident in their skills. The students enjoy the realism of the cases and the ‘surprises’ that arise,” said Rivera, who also serves as coordinator of clinical education and a senior lecturer in App State’s Master of Science in athletic training program.
Nine students participated in the simulations. Graduate students completed all six scenarios, while undergraduate students completed three to four scenarios.
OSCEs are hosted by the Department of Health and Exercise Science multiple times a semester for undergraduate and graduate students, according to Rivera, who shared the university is in the process of phasing out its bachelor’s degree in athletic training.
Undergraduate students have the option to earn a Bachelor of Science in exercise science and an M.S. in athletic training through App State’s Accelerated Admission program or complete a bachelor’s degree of their choice and then apply to the graduate program.
Each student’s performance in the OSCEs was timed and filmed, and students recorded video reflections after completing their simulations. In the days following the event, faculty reviewed the videos to evaluate competency and provided feedback to the students. The students also watched their own videos and identified strengths and weaknesses.
“OSCEs are an invaluable experience and something that I believe truly sets App State’s athletic training program apart,” said Lauren Morris, an athletic training graduate student from Troy who participated in the event. “I learned from this experience that when I am placed in a similar situation where the stakes are much higher, I have the ability and experience to provide efficient and appropriate medical care.”
Rivera said in addition to clinical skills, the students learn how to:
- Triage injuries.
- Communicate with and educate patients.
- Communicate with coaches, administrators and/or guardians when the patient is a minor.
- Coordinate and communicate with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and other health care professionals.
Emily Gumowitz, a senior from Wellington, Florida, majoring in athletic training who participated in the OSCEs, said these simulations create a neutral ground where students can practice integrating the information they learn in the classroom with the information they learn in a clinical setting.
Gumowitz, who participated in her first App State OSCE in 2019, said she recently re-watched her first post-OSCE reflection video and it made her realize “how much my confidence, knowledge and skills have improved” as a result of these events.
Setting the scene
Rivera said the planning for an OSCE begins weeks in advance and includes developing the scenarios and coordinating actors to play patients and bystanders.
Athletic training faculty members write a case file for each simulation that includes:
- A description of the scenario.
- A backstory for the patient.
- An opening vignette that is shared with the student at the start of the scenario.
- A list of materials needed for the scene.
- The associated educational objectives.
The faculty worked to make every aspect of the simulation as realistic as possible. For example, if the student determined they needed to call 911 as part of the scenario, they were handed a card with a phone number that connected them to a faculty member playing a 911 operator.
The patients were played by App State students in the athletic training course Standardized Patients in Healthcare. The course teaches students about the role of simulations in health care education as well as how to draft clinical scenarios and apply moulage (fake injuries).
Gumowitz said she began participating in OSCEs her sophomore year, in the role of a patient, and it provided her a valuable opportunity to “see how the students above me handled situations and to see firsthand what the nature of an OSCE would be like.”
“At previous simulations, students said the scenarios are more realistic when they don’t personally know the individuals involved,” Rivera said.
In response, Rivera recruited athletic trainers from App State Athletics and the M.S. Shook Student Health Service Injury Clinic to play other roles within the scenarios, such as a parent or a coach. Additional actors were recruited from other athletic training courses and the Exercise Science Club to portray bystanders.
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About the Department of Health and Exercise Science
The Department of Health and Exercise Science in Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences delivers student-centered education that is accentuated by quality teaching, scholarly activity and service. The department includes two undergraduate academic disciplines: exercise science and public health. The department also offers two master’s degrees: athletic training, which leads to professional licensure, and exercise science, which prepares students for advanced study in a variety of related fields as well as research. Learn more at https://hes.appstate.edu.
About the Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian's Beaver College of Health Sciences opened in 2010 as the result of a strategic university commitment to significantly enhance the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities in North Carolina and beyond. In 2015, the college was named for an Appalachian alumnus and pioneer in the health care industry — Donald C. Beaver ’62 ’64 of Conover. The college offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health and Exercise Science; Nursing; Nutrition and Health Care Management; Recreation Management and Physical Education; and Social Work. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.