10 September 2020
Procedural skills are a central element in the education of physiotherapists. Procedural skills relate to the execution of a practical task. An educational intervention, which can be used to support skill acquisition of procedural skills, is mental practice (MP). Several studies have investigated the use of MP or imaging in medical education. This pilot study evaluated the application of MP on the acquisition of procedural skills in physiotherapy education.
This pilot randomised controlled study recruited a convenience sample of 37 BSc physiotherapy student participants. Two different complex task procedures (transfer and vestibular rehabilitation) were trained during this study. Participants in both the transfer (task procedure 1) and the vestibular rehabilitation (task procedure 2) arm of the study were randomly assigned to either MP or no MP.
For the transfer task, median performance at post-acquisition testing showed a moderate effect size in favour of the group using MP ( r: −0.3), but the findings were not statistically significant ( P: 0.2). Similar results were found for the vestibular rehabilitation task ( r: 0.29; P: 0.21). In addition, the self-reported confidence was higher in the MP group.
Moderate effect sizes were identified in favour of MP at post-acquisition testing. In addition, the between-group difference was higher than the minimally important difference. The feasibility of the study was high based on quantitative feasibility measures such as the recruitment rate. Both these findings suggest larger well-powered studies should be considered to confirm the findings of this pilot study.