Social Work Clinical Simulation Training

Project Title: Social Work Clinical Simulation Training

Project Lead's Name: Sharon Custer

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-3425

Project Lead's Division: EHS

Primary Department: FSW

Other Team Members and their emails: Anne Roma,

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal: Family Science and Social Work primarily, however our graduate courses and pending graduate certificate will be open to others outside of the department and we expect Kinesiology and Health, Psychology, and others to join. In addition, some partner agencies have shared that once our graduate certificate focusing on addictions is finalized, they would like to enroll their employees, therefore those prospective students will also benefit.

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 75

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 100

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: Course evaluations, informal student feedback, and internship supervisor reviews have all indicated that social work students at the undergraduate and graduate levels need more clinical practice experience prior to engaging in their required field practicum placements. Teaching “soft skills” of empathic listening, engagement practices, reframing, and other clinical intervention strategies can be a challenge for social work professors. Students may be able to articulate strategies and general concepts, but often struggle with the implementation of said skills without extensive practice and feedback.

Current classroom activities and assignments include role plays and opportunities to practice engaging clients and providing therapeutic supports, however assessment data concludes that students who are able to practice in artificial classroom settings with peers that are not always able to act as real clients may be able to pass a test on the concepts, but are not able to transfer the skills to real-world applications. In addition, larger classroom sections prohibit instructors from providing ongoing, constructive feedback in a safe manner that does not embarrass students who make mistakes.

Research demonstrates the use of simulation training can improve the efficacy and skills of various practitioners (Fleming et al., 2009). SIMmersion Immersive Simulations has been a leader in providing various industries quality simulations and has expanded their reach to social work professionals through its creation of interactive trainings on topics such as cognitive behavioral therapy, substance abuse assessments, motivational interviewing, and supporting clients while describing traumatic events. The simulations are designed where the “client” may present different affect or moods during the sessions so that students can practice multiple forms of engagement and therapeutic rapport skills. Throughout the simulation, students are also given personal feedback and suggestions for what they did wrong and what they could have improved upon such as making assumptions about client’s behaviors, spending too much or too little time on engagement versus intervening on the issue, or not being direct in their communication.

Integrating simulations across the bachelor and master level practice courses will provide students another layer of training and feedback to build their confidence and competence. Developing opportunities for students to make mistakes without concern of harm to a real client will ensure students are truly prepared to enter the field setting and afford them the opportunity to develop skills at a richer level so that they can engage with clients earlier in their internship settings rather than waiting until they have practiced enough and demonstrated competency.

Fleming, M., Olsen, D., Boteler, L., Stathes, H., Grossberg, P., Pfiefer, J., Schiro, S., Banning, J., & Skochelak, S. (2009). Virtual reality skills training for health care professionals in alcohol screening and brief intervention. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 22(4), 387–398.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: Historically, it has been difficult to provide undergraduate and graduate students with direct feedback about their learning to interact directly with clients. Many of our clients come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have experienced trauma, so it can be inappropriate to have students practice their engagement and assessment skills with these vulnerable populations. This project directly addresses the department’s need to provide our students with multiple low risk opportunities to practice their work with various types of clients. The SIMmersion program in particular, will provide students with direct feedback about the performance. This feedback is particularly important as research shows students can misjudge their engagement and assessment skills, particularly with clients from diverse backgrounds (Logie, Bojo, Regehr & Regehr, 2013).

SIMmersion has produced highly advanced algorithms to enhance the learning experience. Each choice selected by the student controls how the virtual client will respond. Students are able to escalate and de-escalate clients, build trust, and impact their current emotional states based on their current and past interactions. Each character has multiple personalities so that one student may work with a client with bipolar disorder who is currently in an elevated or manic state while a different student may encounter the same client in a depressed part of their emotional cycle. Not only does this variation prevent students from sharing answers or suggestions, it also provide a more authentic experience as clients in real-world interactions enter sessions with variable moods. The simulation scripts are designed to follow infinite paths so that no two interactions will ever be the same. Characters will remember their past conversations (just like real clients) so that students can build upon past interactions throughout the semester. The attached infographic outlines this process.

Logie, C., Bojo, M., Regehr, C., & Regehr, G. (2013). A critical appraisal of the use of standardized client simulations in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 49(1), 66-80.

How will you assess the success of the project: The objective will be to evaluate student performance and satisfaction. To address student performance, faculty will create a brief baseline assessment prior to the beginning of each practice course that includes knowledge, skills, and values associated with the content for each assignment simulation. Post-tests will be administered at the conclusion of each course to assess student performance of each of these targeted behaviors. To further assess student behavior, field supervisors will also be surveyed for their perceptions related to students’ capabilities in relation to the identified core learning objectives.

Student satisfaction will be assessed by adding additional evaluation questions to the course evaluations given each semester. The focus will be on the ease of use as well as their perceptions of their own skill development. Faculty will identify these questions based on prior evaluation of simulation programs.

It is anticipated that students’ knowledge, skills, and values related to the subject material will have statistically significant increases as a result of completing the simulation modules. Student satisfaction measures will also indicate positive assessments of the use of the materials and value to the course. It is also expected that field supervisors will report improved skill development of students coming into the field as a result of these additional training tools.

Total Amount Requested: $12,000

Is this a multi-year request: Yes

Justification for multi-year request: We are requesting two full years of funding in order to secure sufficient data to properly assess the effectiveness of the simulation software. Undergraduate students will utilize the program in both their junior and senior years and graduate students will have exposure in both years of their program. As each student cohort has different personalities and learning styles, it is essential to evaluate the modules with multiple students prior to determining if departmental funds should be allocated towards these modules or if additional student fees should be assessed for future years.

Length of multi-year request: 2

Spending plan for multi-year request: The funds will be divided over two years so that students in the BSW program can have simulations in their junior and senior years and students in the MSW program can have simulations in both their first and second years of the program. Simulations aligns with content in both their practice and field courses.

Please address how, if at all, this project impacts any of Miami's BCSAE, 2020, or divisional plans: This project aligns with several of the Miami BCSAE 2020 initiatives including student preparation with new skills and competencies. Students are also advancing knowledge in the field as the simulations provide opportunities to assess clients in areas outside of their field placement scope. For example, some students are in placements working with seniors in a nursing home so fail to have the opportunity to assess motivation to reduce or quit consuming alcohol and/or other drugs. However, substance use assessment skills are particularly important to acquire prior to employment or passing the licensure exam. These simulations allow for more holistic training experiences.

Embedding SIMmersion’s high-tech assessments promotes Miami’s reputation for excellence and innovation as other local programs are not utilizing quality technological supports for this type of training. Additionally, FSW is in the process of developing a Substance Abuse and Addictions Treatment Graduate Certificate which aligns with the university’s goal of developing more professional-oriented certificates. The simulation activities available through this project will give students opportunities to further develop their skills for proper assessment and treatment with individuals with addictions in ways not previously provided. These activities allow students to connect theory to practice and demonstrate mastery using meaningful, guided, and supportive pedagogical resources, thus enriching the learning opportunities available to current students and community partners interested in enrolling once the certificate is approved.