Physical therapy students tackle ethical dilemmas in workshop

Tina Chase leading the post-role playing exercise discussion

UIC College of Applied Health Sciences students collaborate with students from Malcolm X College to address ethical dilemmas facing physical therapists.

Fifty-six students in the College of Applied Health Sciences recently participated in a collaborative workshop aimed at addressing the ethical dilemmas commonly faced by physical therapists.

The workshop focused on the relationship between physical therapists, or PTs, and physical therapy assistants, or PTAs, in clinical practice. UIC PT students worked with 27 PTA students from Malcolm X College in the three-hour workshop — the first between the two programs — which included lectures, discussions, and role-playing and reports.

“The workshop gave a face to many of the discussions that we have had in the classroom,” said Tina Chase, director of clinical education and clinical assistant professor of physical therapy at UIC.

It’s important preparation for real-life, collaborative clinical settings, she said.

The scenarios the students discussed included topics such as patient care management and proper delegation of tasks. During role-playing, students from both programs played the roles of PT, PTA, patient or observer.

In one scenario, students worked through a conflict in the decision-making process in response to a patient request to change the routine.

“It was a situation that I have discussed previously, but have not yet encountered in a rotation,” said Ryan Holladay, a second-year PT student at UIC. “It was helpful to experience this in a low-pressure environment and to work it out with other students who have a different perspective than I do.”

Holladay played the role of a physical therapist in the scenario; his colleague, David Castillo, also a second-year PT student at UIC, was an observer.

“It was interesting to see the interaction unfold, and how it unfolded in an unexpected way,” Castillo said.

Nove Pacalso, a PTA student at Malcolm X who played the role of PTA in the exercise, said the most challenging aspect was figuring out how to express himself.

“The activity, for me, was not so difficult, but it was sometimes difficult to find the right words when communicating,” Pacalso said.

Following the exercise, most students talked about their new understanding of the importance of using team-orientated language when speaking with colleagues and patients.

During the discussion, Chase told students that “very subtle shifts in vocabulary can make a difference in reducing confusion and keeping patients satisfied.”

“[The workshop] was awesome,” Pacalso said. “I really look forward to working with a PT.”

Elizabeth Arena, director of the physical therapy assistant program at Malcolm X, said that while it is common for PT and PTA students to talk about ethics in their separate classrooms, the workshop was unique because it brought the two training programs together.

“This workshop helped students from both institutions work through topics that are intimidating,” Arena said. “The partnership between UIC and Malcolm X shows that our missions are aligned — we want to provide access to education to a wide range of students in the health sciences — and we want to help those students get to the next level.”