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Conference Proceeding

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Soft skills are the hallmark of a master healthcare provider. One of the most effective ways to teach soft skills is through service-learning. Evidence suggests that adding simulation as part of a service-learning team’s pre-departure training (PDT) will better prepare them to resolve ethical and cultural dilemmas plus facilitate soft skills. We hypothesized that simulation could improve soft skills of healthcare providers delivering rehabilitation services on a one-week service-learning experience in Guatemala

A convenience sample of 21 physical and occupational therapy students and clinicians who participated in four 1-hour PDTs were included in this qualitative study using grounded-theory methods. Training consisted of didactic, reflective and simulation components designed to introduce self-awareness, team-building, cultural knowledge, and to support trip preparations. Four debriefings were recorded using open-ended questions with a thematic approach around the concept of preparedness and cultural adaptability.

Six themes emerged: confidence, empathy, communication, mentorship, self-knowledge, and cultural competency. Themes described embodied elements of empowering students towards advocacy and process improvement. Providers reported that the simulation experience better enabled them to respond to distressing situations and utilize their soft skills. Simulation for enhancement of international service-learning experiences is recommended to prepare for the ethical and cultural demands of resource-limited countries.


Poster presentation at the IMSH: Society for Simulation in Healthcare Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX January 27, 2019.