School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Allison Mandrusiak
GCHEd Qld., BPhty(Hons) Qld., PhD Qld.
Rowena Toppenberg

BPhty(Hons) Qld., MPhty Qld.
Katrina Williams
GCHEd Syd., BPhty Qld., MAppSc(Phty) Syd., FACP

In 2005, compulsory clinical placements for final-year physiotherapy students were in crisis in Queensland, with limited availability and an uncertain future. An alternative approach to these crucial clinical experiences was urgently needed, driving creation of the UQ Physiotherapy ‘Standardised Patients’ (SP) program. This is a distinctive, intensive and innovative program using trained actors to portray patients in authentic simulated environments. The three core disciplines of physiotherapy (musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, and neurological) are united to create this cohesive program – a landmark innovation in Australia that is now regarded as a leader in simulated learning in physiotherapy. Its effectiveness was quickly recognised, so when the placement gridlock resolved in 2009, it was obvious that the SP program must continue. Testament to its sustainability, is that since 2006 the SP program stands as a compulsory clinical ‘placement’ for students prior to starting their clinical year. This program’s ambitious goal is to help students consolidate three years of knowledge and skills across all areas of physiotherapy and to enhance their readiness for clinical placements – a transition historically regarded with trepidation. There is clear evidence of the impact of the “UQ model” nationally as it is now implemented by Australian universities as part of the largest simulated learning project funded by Health Workforce Australia.

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