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Craig St. Jean, MA; Karin Werther, MSc; Mary Roduta Roberts, PhD


Background: Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) are widely used in health programs to assess clinical skills. We present results of a qualitative study investigating occupational therapy students’ perceptions of OSCEs’ impact on their learning and readiness for clinical practice.

Method: Six second and six third year students in the University of Alberta’s Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program were interviewed in separate focus groups. Independent reviewers applied thematic analysis to the focus group transcripts to identify, analyze, and report themes in the data.

Results: Five themes were constructed from the data: from learning to action, transition to practice, stress, representativeness, and suggestions for improvement. Both cohorts perceived OSCEs as intensely stressful but ultimately beneficial to their learning, though third-years more readily identified stress as a catalyst for personal and professional growth. Further, both cohorts noted that OSCEs motivated them to practice clinical skills and constituted important stepping stones toward authentic practice, but the third-year students more frequently drew connections between the skills tested in their OSCEs and their confidence in working as occupational therapists.

Conclusion: OSCEs play an important role in forming students’ identities as clinicians in the making, supporting their continued use for formative assessment in MScOT programs.