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How to Write a Mock Station for the PCE Practical Exam

If you are preparing for the PCE, we highly recommend practicing with mock stations to prepare for the practical component. This part might be obvious, since you need to practice for the exam experience. This will help improve your ability to think on the spot, work under time constraints, and learn how to analyze and interpret station scenarios. 

What you may not have considered, however, is the important learning experience in writing your own mock stations. It will help you identify the underlying themes of the station, pick out safety or ethical flags, and most importantly, understand and integrate difficult subject matter. In this blog, we are going to teach you how to create your own mock stations with which to practice. 

1. Choose a topic.  We suggest you choose a topic that you find challenging, not with one you are already comfortable. This has 2 major benefits. First, you will be thinking critically about the subject matter, forcing you to dig deeper to understand the material, helping with integration of knowledge to practice. The second benefit has more to do with the nature of practicing in your study group. To truly reproduce the exam experience, you will be working in groups of 3 or 4. After having a candidate work through a mock station, we suggest you sit down and discuss the candidate’s performance as well as other possible outcomes to the station or intended task. This form of group discussion helps broaden understanding and reinforces learning.

 If you are using EPE to study, choose a topic and try narrowing it down to a single page of content. For this example, I picked Neuro-musculoskeletal > General Concepts > Fracture Types. In your case, pick a page with a topic you find challenging, or one you would like to explore in more depth. 

2. Assessment or treatment. This is meant to be as simple as it sounds.  All of your stations will be based around you, either performing an assessment or a treatment technique, but not both. Choose one; move on. For our example, I picked treatment. 

3. 5 or 10 minute station. Decide whether you want to write a 5 or 10 minute station. The target task in a 10 minute station should be more involved or may have 2 parts. A 5 minute station will be a shorter task, but you will also need to write a couple of follow up questions regarding the station. For the purpose of our example, I am going to choose a 5 minute station. 

4. Pick a goal for the station. This is related to choosing assessment or treatment but expands on the detail. I will usually refer back to the content page in EPE. I chose management and decided to create a scenario around exercises.

5. Outline your patient. Generally, you want to provide an age, name and maybe some other relevant details. Here you might also want to start thinking about instructions you are going to give the patient (ones the candidate won’t see, but I will talk about this in more detail later). For my example, I am going to pick a 15-year old boy named Shayne who sustained a right tibial metaphyseal fracture that was traumatic, simple, and complete.

6. Identify safety, ethics, contra-indications.  These are important topics to outline early as they are usually automatic fails to a station. Sometimes they will be written as part of the question, sometimes they will be a sort of hidden second goal for the station. You need to choose if any of these issues will be present and how you would like them presented. For a 5 minute station, these topics make good follow up questions. For my example station, because the boy is 15, there are ethical considerations for his age as his parents will have final say on consent. Also, there are safety concerns for DVT.

7. Write your station. Now you should be able to compile this information to make a mock station. The station should be 2 or 3 sentences and should clearly outline what you would like the candidate to do. This is what I came up with for my mock station:

You are working as an inpatient physiotherapist in your local hospital. Your patient, Shayne, is a 15-year old boy who is one day post-operative ORIF for a right tibial metaphyseal fracture that was traumatic, simple, and complete. You are helping plan his discharge so he can go home today. 

Teach 2 home exercises to complete for the next week before he begins outpatient physiotherapy. 

Discuss the important of early exercise intervention with the patient and his parent.

8. Patient instructions.  Here is where you can add more detail to guide the scenario. For my example station, you would need a 4th person in the room to act as the mother (or father). You’ll need patient instructions for both. 

Instructions for Caroline (mother):

  • You are the boy’s mother. This is the first time any of your children have had a broken bone, or even surgery so you are anxious and don’t know what to expect. 

  You will be standing beside the boy’s bed when the candidate enters the room.

  • You are a bit anxious, pace around a bit.
  • When the physio asks you to gain consent, give your consent.

Instructions for Shayne (boy)

– You are in the hospital after surgery and you are excited to go home, but still in a fair bit of pain. You will be in bed with your foot up on a pillow when the candidate enters the room. You will have a dressing on your knee. 

  • Be very shy; don’t ask any questions or offer up any information.
  • If the candidate asks you to gain consent, give consent.
  • If the candidate has you move your foot, wince with pain. If they ask you if that hurts, say yes. If they ask for a number value, say 5/10.
  • Be compliant with all instructions given by the candidate, but hesitant; you are worried about pain. 

9. Room Supplies.  Now that you have your station laid out, make a list of supplies needed in the room, if any. In this example, we would need a hospital bed, or something that could mimic a bed. We would want the patient in bed, his foot up on a pillow under the covers. The patient’s knee should have a dressing on it. 

10. Examiner checklist.  This is an entire additional exercise.  We have outlined how to do this in an additional blog HERE. 

11.  5 minute station follow-up questions. If you are creating a 5 minute station, include the 5 minutes of follow-up questions to be completed after the station; typically 1-3 short answer questions. Examples of good follow-up questions include contra-indications, future treatments, risk factors, etc. For my example station, I chose the following:

  1. What is the legal age of consent in Canada?
  2. What instructions would you give the patient if he was having trouble with high levels of pain during his exercises?
  3. What concerns, if any, would you have for a metaphyseal fracture in a 15-year-old boy?

This should get you well on your way to creating your own mock exam stations. Have all participants in your study group create a few mock stations, then work through the stations together.  Include an opportunity for open discussion after a candidate has completed the station. 

Check out my next blog to learn how to make a marking rubric for your own stations.

Study hard, study well.