The sights and sounds of a hospital can be overwhelming. Add the element of a patient in physical distress and a student might freeze, momentarily forgetting what they have learned in the years leading up to that moment. To help prepare students for the high-intensity of an acute care environment, we utilize our high-fidelity simulation lab. 

On March 2, the Department of Physical Therapy hosted an interprofessional program, bringing together doctor of pharmacy (PharmD), doctor of physical therapy (DPT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) students. The collaboration was spearheaded by Carl L. Fairburn III ’10, PT, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy, Deepti Vyas, PharmD, BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice and Benjamin Reece ’01, ’08, MA, CCC-SLP, assistant clinical professor of speech-language pathology.

“Today’s health care field is truly team based with multiple health care providers involved in the direct care of each patient,” said Dr. Vyas. “This requires strategic collaboration between the members of the medical team so that each professional’s expertise is optimally utilized.”

“Having been a student not too long ago, I know how easy it is to be completely driven by the goal of passing tests and board exams,” said Erica Barr, PharmD, assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice. “The use of the clinical skills lab helps put everything the students are learning into real-world perspective. Students are better able to see that what they are learning has a direct impact on improving, and even saving, lives.

”This lab also helps to improve professional communication skills and allows the students to become familiar with thinking on their feet in high-pressure situations.”

Erica Barr, PharmD

“In graduate programs, students are required to focus on their own discipline to a point that it is difficult to consider how it may fit into larger systems such as the health care system or public education,” Professor Reece said. “I remember my own transition from grad school to the field and being a bit naive about the roles of my fellow professionals from other disciplines.”

”I overheard students talking about their respective fields and comparing notes on their training and expectations for transitioning into their work as professionals.”

Benjamin Reece ’01, ’08, MA, CCC-SLP

During the simulations, students were asked to treat a patient with congestive heart failure and a patient who had had a stroke. The PharmD students were responsible for identifying and managing any drug related problems or questions that arose during the simulation.

The DPT students were tasked with doing an assessment and mobilizing the patient. As they mobilized the patient they carefully monitored vital signs so that they could react to any adverse physiological responses that would indicate that it was unsafe to continue.

The SLP students were tasked with educating the PharmD and DPT students on the ways communication and swallowing disorders can impact a patient’s ability to communicate or understand directions. They also offered guidance on safe ways to administer oral medications, as well as recommendations for safe foods and liquids to offer the patient.


“It takes a team to provide the best possible patient care,” Dr. Barr said. “The students were also able to learn from the strengths of the other students, such as the fantastic bedside manner exhibited by the physical therapy students.”

For those faculty that were involved, they are already envisioning ways the simulation lab can be used in the future. “We hope we can continue to build our interprofessional curriculum and use the simulation lab for more acute hospital-based scenarios,” Dr. Vyas said. Echoing that sentiment, Professor Reece said: “I am interested in exploring implementing a simulation lab during our dysphagia class, specifically to demonstrate and practice bedside swallow evaluations that students are expected to do in their medical externships.” He added, “It was so enlightening to work with Dr. Fairburn and Dr. Vyas and to hear how they are engaging their students in clinical education. While collaboration is important for students, it is also very valuable for faculty.”

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By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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