Virtual Patient Simulations for Medical Education: Increasing Clinical Reasoning Skills through Deliberate Practice

May 19, 2014 10:55am - 12:25pm

Lise McCoy MTESL 
School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona 
A,T. Still University

This education doctoral dissertation study (due April 2014) investigates the utility of virtual patient simulations (VPS) for increasing medical student clinical reasoning skills, collaboration and participation. Many studies indicate that VPS provide effective practice for clinical care, but the efficacy of inductive reasoning VPS for clinical decision making is unknown. In order to develop robust, problem-solving schemata, first-year medical students require ample deliberate practice with patient cases. According to the theories of situated medical cognition and knowledge construction, solving virtual patient cases in a peer team should be an effective method for increasing skills in clinical decision-making and collaboration. This design-based mix-methods study explores the integration of Decision Sim VPS within a medical school. First year student teams complete four VPS and submit ballpark diagnoses. Next, participants complete exit surveys that measure their perceptions regarding the value of the VPS for clinical reasoning, collaboration and participation. Finally, the cohort participates in a randomized control trial, which compares learning gains among two modalities of instruction (traditional versus VPS). These activities will render quantitative and qualitative data that instantiate the theory that VP simulation is an effective modality for skill practice in clinical decision making and professional collaboration.