First-year graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) had an opportunity to gain Alternate Clinical Education (ACE) hours during the Summer of 2017 as part of an academic course, CSD 422:  Assessment Across the Lifespan, taught by Patricia Larkin.  ACE hours were earned using SimuCase, a web-based program that provides educational training of assessment for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) using virtual patients.

The patients in these case studies presented with a variety of medical and communication needs.  Medical impairments included: spasmodic dysphonia, Lewy-Body dementia, traumatic brain injury, brain-stem stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, primary progressive aphasia, and Parkinson’s disease.  Communication issues addressed in these case studies included: voice, expressive language, motor speech, pragmatic language, language differences, phonology, augmentative-alternative communication, fluency, written language, cognitive-communication, and aphasia.

All students were required to complete three SimuCase studies.  However, many students completed extra SimuCase studies to enhance their learning and earn clinical clock hours.  In total, 37 students earned 484 ACE hours during the summer semester over 586 SimuCase studies.  In August, 2017, SimuCase recognized this group of ISU students for collectively completing the more case studies than any other group of students nationally.

Student feedback regarding SimuCase as a learning tool were generally positive.  Student comments included:

  • “I found great value in this learning opportunity because of my overall lack of experience working with patients with AAC. It allowed me to try different ideas while feeling comfortable and without being afraid to make a mistake. It was a very valuable learning opportunity for me without the added pressure of affecting a real patient.”
  • “I have never seen a full modified barium swallow study, so it was very interesting to see the differences in swallowing between liquids. This was an excellent first look at swallowing.”
  • “This case study was my first experience with a client and family that was culturally diverse. The primary language they spoke was Spanish, so it was nice to be able to provide assessments in Spanish.”

A CSD faculty member shared this about SimuCase, “It was wonderful to see the students had gained some experience with stuttering prior to the academic course.  SimuCase primed the students for discussions about stuttering assessment.”