Susan M. Cahill; Perspectives on the Use of Standardized Parents to Teach Collaboration to Graduate Occupational Therapy Students. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(Supplement_2):6912185040. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.017103
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OBJECTIVE. Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners interview parents on a daily basis to gain important patient information and develop collaborative intervention goals. A standardized parent experience was developed to help master’s-level occupational therapy students gain the skills needed to interview parents after their child’s traumatic injury. This article describes the pedagogical approach used to develop the standardized parent experience and reports the students’ general perspectives related to this assignment.
METHOD. Outcome data were collected through focus groups (n = 9) and document review (n = 12) and then analyzed for themes.
RESULTS. Two main themes emerged from the data: It felt real and It helped me to think deeper.
CONCLUSION. A standardized parent experience may help occupational therapy students develop the habits of mind associated with collaboration.
I feel like the experience was . . . a snapshot of what [practice] is really like. So if I hadn’t had it, and say I was on a fieldwork and [my fieldwork supervisor said] “you are going to go talk to this parent,” . . . I would not be sure exactly what to say or where to start. It was a big skill builder for me. Now I know how to prepare for something like [a parent interview], and I feel like I could apply that to pretty much any other setting.
It’s helpful anytime you can incorporate something that is not so “classroom” or “textbook.” Even though some of those things are based on real kids, it keeps us in the little school bubble, and then we aren’t in contact with the real stuff that is happening out there.
I think that putting us face to face with an actual person that we don’t know, that’s not part of this program, and that we never met before and having her act as a parent put us more in a realistic situation . . . like one we will find ourselves in in the future. I just think there are too many interpersonal dynamics that are happening if it is someone that we really know [like an instructor]. Because at that point, it would just be role-playing, and I’m not a fan of role plays.
It has been overwhelming for me in the past to imagine reading a chart like this child’s and then think about speaking with a parent at such a sensitive time. But that is the reality of the work that we do as occupational therapists. After completing this assignment, I feel more at ease and confident in my ability to prioritize and synthesize information. It helped me to think deeper into how I can frame strengths and needs in a positive light while still being empathetic and caring when speaking with a parent seeking occupational therapy services for their child.
Working with a kid and working with a parent are totally different. We learned about the client constellation. This [experience] was so helpful in realizing that how you act with the child is so different from how you act with the parent. The parent is going through something totally different than the child, especially in this case because they are just starting with their child’s diagnosis. I never really thought about it before. I’m going to be going into someone’s life for the first time after something tragic. It might be so hard to meet someone who has just experienced such a significant life change. What I say to the parent that first time and how I say it is really important.
When I asked [the parent] questions, I feel like her responses actually limited me. I had things I could see us working on, and she just wouldn’t bite on any of them. I had to think about being collaborative. She has an idea in her head of what she wants me to be coming in and doing. I had my own ideas, too. It really forced me to collaborate with her . . . to work together. I wanted to work on play or something, but she was way more concerned with going back to school. I think that would happen in real life all the time.
I was going into it probably a little overconfident. I went in on this pedestal, like I’m the great OT. The parent is actually probably the real expert on her child. That is more realistic, and I’m glad I had this [experience] before going into my first real experience and completely stumbling.
Intense standardized parent experiences, such as the one described in this study, allow occupational therapy students to understand the viewpoints held by parents about their children when establishing rehabilitation goals and developing intervention plans.
Standardized parent experiences may also help students reflect on and ultimately adopt a family-focused model (Hanft et al., 2012) when providing services to children in various practice arenas.
The use of a standardized parent experience appears to be useful, at least to some extent, in providing occupational therapy students with an opportunity to practice and reflect on the way they might collaborate with parents in a pediatric rehabilitation setting.
Because it is challenging to guarantee standardized experiences using child actors (Hubal et al., 2003), occupational therapy educators should consider the use of adult actors who assume the role of clients’ parents.
Occupational therapy educators should continue to research the use of actors to address the unique concerns of various patient populations in different practice settings.
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