Social workers are often called to respond to natural and man-made disasters, however few programs include specific content on disaster response, even though such content aligns with CSWE competencies. Responding requires not only introducing curriculum content but also providing space for students to apply concepts and demonstrate competency. The use of simulation is now well-known as an effective way for students to acquire and demonstrate competencies, however few studies evaluate the effectiveness in the context of disaster response, especially in the role of victim. This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of an inter-professional education (IPE) simulation between nursing and social work depicting a mass casualty, mass fatality city-bus crash in a rural community utilizing standardized patients (actors). Online and face-to-face graduate social work students engaged as both victims and responders, providing psychological first aid (PFA), crisis intervention (CI) and staffing a Family Assistance Center. The study sought to determine if there was an increase in confidence in the application of skills for total student group, as well as sub-groups of role (victim/responder) and type of participation (online/face-to-face).
The researchers developed a survey instrument eliciting information on simulation activities and intervention. Eighteen items related directly to IPE, disaster response, core actions of PFA and CI. The survey utilized a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) on statements related to the simulation experience and skills. The survey was distributed to social work students via Survey Monkey the week prior to simulation and again immediately following. Reminder emails and prompts were utilized and the survey closed with a 98% response rate. Forty-six students participated in the simulation, 52% (n=24) as victims and 48% (n=22) as responders. Eleven students (3 victims, 8 responders) participated online utilizing Zoom and telepresence robots. Paired and independent samples 2-tailed significance testing (t-test) was performed to answer the research questions.
Significance testing revealed that mean scores increased from pre-simulation to post-simulation on all 18 items, with 14 items reaching statistical significance p<.05. Of the 6 items that did not reach statistical significance many related to skills common in general social work practice (e.g., ability to establish a quick and calming connection, ability to provide validation of feelings), or skills that are emphasized throughout the program (e.g., confident in ability to respect others use of spirituality to make meaning). Testing also revealed that there was significant learning that occurred regardless of role (victim/responder), or method of participation (online/face-to-face).
Conclusions and Implications:
As social work education continues to advance in the areas of simulation it is important to evaluate effectiveness in advancement of skills. This is particularly true as we seek ways to integrate online students in face-to-face experiences. This study provides preliminary evidence that the use of IPE can be an important experience in the development of clinical skills related to disaster response. In addition, it initiates the conversation about the capacity of student learning in passive roles (victims) and through online participation in face-to-face events.