HPU Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies Faculty Partner to Provide Students with Clinical Experience

Cone Health medical clinicians provided assistance by acting as “live patients” for the students.


HIGH POINT, N.C., Dec. 17, 2020 – High Point University faculty in the Departments of Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies invited Cone Health medical clinicians to campus this week to offer real-world simulations to students.

The global pandemic has placed an overwhelming demand on hospital systems. As they have started to reach capacity, it has become difficult for hospitals staff to support patient care and take on students at the same time. As a result, some hospitals have limited the number of slots available for clinical placements, and HPU students have been placed in outpatient facilities. While still good experience, these outpatient facilities lacked the inpatient exposure required for HPU program standards.

Dr. Devon Werner, assistant professor and director of Clinical Education in the Department of Physical Therapy, partnered with faculty in HPU’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies to utilize the Center for Medical Simulation.

“We have been very fortunate to have incredible clinical partners that have been able to accommodate and train many of our students during these difficult times, but some limitations still exist for students due the pandemic,” said Werner. “It was a priority for our program to make sure all students still had the opportunity to utilize the skill sets they have acquired throughout our curriculum.”

Werner and Billy Vaile, simulation center manager in HPU’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies, invited local clinical instructors, rehabilitation therapists and nurses from Cone Health to act as “patients” for the students to examine while the acute physical therapists provided in-the-moment mentorship to the students.

“The ‘live’ atmosphere creates the most realistic environment,” said Werner. “Pair that with the incredible technology and skill of our simulation command coordinator, Billy, and we can create live action monitors, alerts and reactions just as it would be in the hospital itself. This gives our students the closest experience possible to the real deal.”

“This experience has given me a greater appreciation for physical therapists in the hospital setting and allowed me to piece all of the adult neurological rehabilitation, medically complex, and foundational courses of my curriculum together to prepare me for my future as a physical therapist,” said Rachel Heller, an HPU physical therapy student.

“The simulated world gives us the ability to use real people, playing roles in a controlled environment,” said Vaile. “We can manipulate and control the situations that may happen in the real world, so that every student can be exposed to events that may not come along during a normal clinical rotation. We had several students say that they could not tell what was real and what was not, which makes me happy and means we have done our job here in the Center for Medical Simulation.”

“The quality of care, knowledge and effort Cone Health and HPU faculty provided has exponentially increased my confidence and knowledge in the acute care setting,” said Brice Rizzetta, HPU physical therapy student.

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