Horstmanshof, L, Lingard, RG, Coetzee, S & Waddell, LP 2016, 'Clinical exercise physiology students learning with older adults: an innovative simulation-based education programme', Advances in Simulation, vol. 1.
In this paper, we report on a series of placements for clinical exercise physiology students in a simulation-based education environment with older, independent adults. The purpose of these placement opportunities was to help prepare students to work confidently and competently with older adults in primary healthcare settings. The effectiveness of these placements was measured through semi-structured interviews with the students, their supervisors and the volunteer patients, and also by analysing the content of the students’ written reflection assignments. A combination of directed content analysis, informed by the research objectives and imposed upon the data, and conventional content analysis, in which codes were developed from themes emerging from the data, was adopted. Coding was based on units of meaning. Overall, the placement aims were met. Students reported increased confidence in communicating with older adults and in using the tools of their trade. This innovative simulation-based education experience helped students gain an understanding of their developing professional identities. However, the data show that some students still failed to recognise the value and importance of communication when working with older adults. The older adults reported that they enjoyed interacting with the students and believed that they had helped the students gain a positive impression of the cognitive and physical abilities of older adults. These older adults had also gained insight into the benefits of exercise physiology in terms of their own wellbeing. This paper demonstrates the benefits of engaging community support in developing healthcare workers and provides guidelines for replication of these innovative simulation-based education experiences. The paper is limited to reporting the social and community engagement benefits for older adults and the learning opportunities for the clinical exercise physiology students. Further research is needed to demonstrate the health gains for older adults who participate in such programmes.