Date Presented 03/31/2022

The impact of a standardized patient encounter experience on student performance skills and perceptions of fieldwork readiness was examined. Results indicated that students performed assessment, intervention, and documentation skills above targeted expectations, and student perceptions of fieldwork readiness improved. This curricular design may serve as a model for other OT educators in implementing effective instructional strategies to enhance fieldwork readiness.

Primary Author and Speaker: Lisa Sakemiller

Additional Authors and Speakers: Susan Toth-Cohen

Occupational therapy educators are challenged to utilize instructional strategies that ensure student preparedness for Level II fieldwork. Standardized patient encounters (SPEs) offer students a low risk simulation opportunity to develop clinical skills and improve fieldwork readiness (Bennett, Rodger, Fitzgerald, and Gibson, 2017) while enhancing occupational therapy students’ confidence (Herge et al., 2013). Yet, despite the benefits and perceived value of simulation among educators and students, SPEs are not used as frequently as other instructional methods (Henderson, Coppard, & Qi, 2017). Perhaps, this is due to the lack of detail to guide occupational therapy educators in developing and implementing SPEs. To effectively prepare students for Level II fieldwork and eventual entry-level practice, occupational therapy programs and educators must ensure that they are utilizing effective instructional strategies.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this research project is (1) to describe the curriculum development process of an overall SPE experience embedded within a synthesis course prior to Level II fieldwork in an occupational therapy education program and (2) to evaluate its impact on student skills and perceptions of fieldwork readiness.

DESIGN: A mixed methods design aimed to discover the impact of the SPE experience on a convenience sample of twenty-five occupational therapy students who were recruited and agreed to participate in the SPE experience. The participants were members of the university’s weekend college masters of occupational therapy cohort of 2019 and enrolled in a one-credit synthesis course at the end of the didactic curriculum.

METHOD: To determine the impact of the SPE on student performance skills, direct observation during the SPE by trained faculty evaluators was guided by an adapted version of Henderson’s Clinical Performance Assessment Tool (CPAT) (Henderson, 2016). The impact of the SPE experience on student perceptions of fieldwork readiness was collected through a pre- post- SPE questionnaire. A self-assessment at post-SPE further included open-ended reflection questions related to areas of strength and challenges in each of the adapted CPAT’s three domains.

RESULTS: Post-test results indicated that the students performed assessment, intervention, and documentation skills above targeted domain expectations for fieldwork readiness on the CPAT. Results of a pre–post questionnaire indicated an improvement in student perceptions of fieldwork readiness. Open-ended post-SPE questions revealed self-reported strengths and challenges. Based upon the predominant themes in areas of challenge, four program-specific curricular enhancements were identified.

CONCLUSION: Participation in the entire SPE experience positively impacted students’ performance skills and perceptions of fieldwork preparedness. Participants reported higher levels of perceived readiness and demonstrated skills that were on average higher than targeted minimal expectations for fieldwork readiness. However, the design, preparation, and implementation of the experience were resource-intensive for the occupational therapy educator. Strategies to address time, facilities, and manpower issues will be addressed.

IMPACT STATEMENT: This proposal is important for occupational therapy educators. Results demonstrate the benefits of an SPE experience on student performance and perceptions. The described curricular design will serve as a model for educators to implement effective instructional strategies for fieldwork readiness.


Bennett, S., Rodger, S., Fitzgerald, C., & Gibson, L. (2017). Simulation in occupational therapy curricula: A literature review. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 64, 314–327.

Henderson, W. (2016). Development of a clinical performance assessment tool for an occupational therapy teaching clinic. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 4(3).

Henderson, W., Coppard, B., & Qi, Y. (2017). Identifying instructional methods for development of clinical reasoning in entry-level occupational therapy education: A mixed methods design. Journal of Occupational Therapy Education, 1(2).

Herge, E. A., Lorch, A., DeAngelis, T., Vause-Earland, T., Mollo, K., & Zapletal, A. (2013). The standardized patient encounter: A dynamic educational approach to enhance students’ clinical healthcare skills. Journal of Allied Health, 42(4), 229-235.