Background. Rehabilitation of patients in critical care environments improves functional outcomes. This finding has led to increased implementation of intensive care unit (ICU) rehabilitation programs, including early mobility, and an associated increased demand for physical therapists practicing in ICUs. Unfortunately, many physical therapists report being inadequately prepared to work in this high-risk environment. Simulation provides focused, deliberate practice in safe, controlled learning environments and may be a method to initiate academic preparation of physical therapists for ICU practice. Objective. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of participation in simulation-based management of a patient with critical illness in an ICU setting on levels of confidence and satisfaction in physical therapist students. Design. A one-group, pretest-posttest, quasi-experimental design was used. Methods. Physical therapist students (N=43) participated in a critical care simulation experience requiring technical (assessing bed mobility and pulmonary status), behavioral (patient and interprofessional communication), and cognitive (recognizing a patient status change and initiating appropriate responses) skill performance. Student confidence and satisfaction were surveyed before and after the simulation experience. Results. Students' confidence in their technical, behavioral, and cognitive skill performance increased from "somewhat confident" to "confident" following the critical care simulation experience. Student satisfaction was highly positive, with strong agreement the simulation experience was valuable, reinforced course content, and was a useful educational tool. Limitations. Limitations of the study were the small sample from one university and a control group was not included. Conclusions. Incorporating a simulated, interprofessional critical care experience into a required clinical course improved physical therapist student confidence in technical, behavioral, and cognitive performance measures and was associated with high student satisfaction. Using simulation, students were introduced to the critical care environment, which may increase interest in working in this practice area.
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