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Community Outreach: A way to apply the Standards of Ethical Conduct
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Posted By Matthew Nicholas, Chapter Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Multidisciplinary health care students in a simulated clinical lab setting.

By: Linda Park, SPTA & Darryln Coleman, SPTA
Oakton Community College, Class of 2018

From orientation through the two years of the physical therapy assistant program at Oakton Community College, the Guide of Conduct for PTA has been a continual source reference, whether in the health care team structure, the foundations of the PT and PTA relationship, and most importantly, patient/client care. Now if there could be a [method in which it would be able to tie in some of those listed values into tangible experiences that would indeed be an invaluable learning tool. Fortunately, at the Margaret Burke Lee Science and Health Careers Center (more affectionately called, the Lee Center), students pursuing a career in the sciences, and more specifically the health care industry, are able to utilize the Simulation Hospital Lab.

Although the Sim Lab is geared towards the nursing curriculum, in recent semesters, the PTA students have had the opportunity to experience a clinical setting on campus. Through the partnership between the nursing and the PTA departments, the Sim Lab allows for interdisciplinary teamwork and discussion through mock patient/client and health care provider interactions in differing clinical settings. During these mock clinical experiences, the students touch upon multiple Guide values to patient care: “Sound decisions”, “Integrity of relationships”, and “Altruism” to name a few. Through preparation, participation and discussions, nursing students, PTA students and faculty work together to successfully undertake a patient/client health care visit.

Recently, it was a great opportunity for the PTA students to collaborate with another health care program in a simulated environment (the Sim Lab is not currently available through the PTA program). Students from both programs observed and discovered the scope of practice in one another’s health care profession, and allowed insight into more clinical, realistic post-graduate work situations and relationships. During the scenarios, students encountered situations which needed collaboration with the other professionals to deliver the best patient care, providing firsthand experience of the core values of APTA/PTA patient management.

“Standard 2A. Altruism: Physical therapist assistants shall act in the best interests of patients/clients over the interests of the physical therapist assistant.” – By learning to operate as a cohesive team and understanding the roles of other professionals in patient/client care, the students were able to deliver the best service possible. Participating in the Sim Lab allowed for an open-mindedness, to look outside one’s own career goals, and see the importance of the collaboration in order to ultimately benefit the patient.
The Sim Lab creates an opportunity to develop communication skills between health careers, and can establish an educational foundation of patient care for a life-long career of service. The experience gained by focusing on healthcare team development is an invaluable asset to help the patient receiving optimum service.

“Standard 3A. Sound Decisions: Physical therapist assistants shall make decisions based upon their level of competence and consistent with patient/client values.” – Students participating in the Sim Lab were provided with case students/background information on the patients that were going to be treated, as well as individual goals and expectations from each of the healthcare disciplines. For a successful simulation, it was apparent that careful preparation for the “home health visits” was a key factor. This meant that if there was a lack of knowledge or uncertainty for the method of effective therapy, then as therapists, it was crucial to increase our competency, through research, practice, and seeking counsel (from other “therapists” i.e. faculty). A situation such as this can be relatable to real-world situations, in which a therapist may not be familiar with their patient’s diagnosis or impairment. It becomes the therapist’s responsibility to seek out the comprehension and knowledge outside of what would be considered “work hours” to effectively treat patients. This correlates to “Altruism” which refers to practices in the best interest of the patient over self (therapist).

“Standard 4. Integrity in Relationships: Physical therapist assistants shall demonstrate integrity in their relationships with patients/clients, families, colleagues, students, other health care providers, employers, payers, and the public.” – The simulation specifically focused on helping students acknowledge and identify their roles as a PTA delivering interventions as part of a healthcare team. They gained a better understanding of what needs to be communicated, what is expected, and how they can help others utilize their skills as a PTA. By requiring a collaborative effort among healthcare professionals, the lab defines a clear role for therapists and explores how classroom learning translates into effective patient care. The Sim Lab developed integrity by creating an environment of accountability to job duty. When practicing in a “real-world” situation, the roles identified via this lab help the PTA determine how they can best represent the physical therapy practice and treatment of patients/clients.

Another beneficial aspect to the Sim Lab was the round table type discussions after each “patient/client visit”. With the advantages of technology such as video and audio playback, the students and supervising faculty were able to have an open discussion about the successes and opportunities of improvement from each of the patient visits pertaining to the student health care teams. Even though it was important to a certain degree to “correctly” treat the patient, and to spot “sabotages” within the simulation, these discussion revealed that it was more important that the students had a heightened awareness of the level of patient and caregiver attention and care, as well as patient safety and patient/caregiver education. This concept of patient/caregiver care goes back to the Standards of Ethical Conduct for PTAs, (standard 8) “PTAs shall participate in efforts to meet the health needs of people, locally, nationally, or globally.” The discussion were not particularly focused on mistakes or missed opportunities, but about what made the collaboration successful in terms of better patient care (safety and education).

The Sim Lab is a great opportunity for different health care programs at Oakton to have the rare chance to work together in a simulated health care environment, in which they actually have a patient verbalizing during therapy, as well as the possibility to interact with family members and/or caregivers. It would be great to try to push the departments to have more opportunities such as these on a more regular basis (weekend labs). The shared building space of the Lee Center allow for the ease of convergence and participation for the differing health care students at Oakton, and pushes the core idea of communication between health care professionals for optimal patient/client health care services.

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