BACKGROUND: Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are daunting environments for physiotherapy (PT) students performing clinical rotations. To prepare students for this environment, a newly developed, evidence-based e-learning module was designed and implemented in the undergraduate curriculum. The aim of this study was to investigate whether e-learning is a feasible method in preparing PT students for clinical work in complex ICU environments, as perceived by students and experts.
METHODS: A mixed methods proof of concept study was undertaken. Participants were final-year students of an international curriculum, and experts from didactic and clinical fields. An e-learning module consisting of 7 separate chapters based on the latest scientific evidence and clinical expertise was developed, piloted and incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum as a compulsory course to be completed prior to clinical ICU rotations. Data were collected through 3 focus group meetings and 5 semi-structured interviews; these meetings and interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed.
RESULTS: The study sample comprised of 14 students and 5 experts. Thematic analysis revealed three themes: expected competencies of PT students in ICU, feeling prepared for ICU clinical work and dealing with local variety. The e-learning module enabled students to anticipate clinical situations and PT tasks in the ICU. Higher level clinical reasoning skills, handling of lines and wires and dealing with out-of-textbook situations could not be achieved with the e-learning module alone.
CONCLUSIONS: An e-learning module can sufficiently prepare PT students for their clinical tasks in the ICU, as long as it is integrated with, or closely connected to, the students' clinical placement.