Background/content We are pioneering the use of virtual patients providing guided experiential learning in the delivery of complex interviewing skills scenarios.
Description of innovation or topic Interactive virtual environments are created by filming actors against a green screen. CGI backgrounds are superimposed to create the desired setting. The learner then engages in an immersive role-pay experience in which they are visually projected into the scenario with the virtual patient. The trainer sequences the pre-recorded video to simulate a real time conversation between the learner and the virtual patient. The learner speaks directly to the virtual patient and the trainer selects responses corresponding to emotional themes. Subsequent group discussion enables experimentation with different communication styles. A sense of curiosity is encouraged.
Learning is attitudinal (e.g.: development of compassion), behavioural (e.g.: conveyance of empathy) and content focussed (e.g.: development of specific communication skills) and occurs through systematic rehearsal in the simulated scenarios. These scenarios enable participants to experience emotionally charged situations of increasing complexity, such as breaking bad news, to talking down a patient in A&E who is threatening to harm themselves.
Improvements/outcomes (anticipated or recorded) Participants’ skills and confidence will improve in a range of tasks involving communication with people with mental health conditions and other vulnerable people. The skills encompass dealing with situations of increasing complexity, starting with core communication and therapeutic skills such as rapport building to more sophisticated areas such as capacity assessment.
Feedback from the pilot run with Foundation doctors was very positive.
Take home messages Patient centred, compassion driven care is at the heart of the modern NHS and simulation must take this into account when delivering curriculum objectives. This use of virtual patients to create an immersive experience enables participants to develop these skills and attitudes in a safe learning environment.
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Pataki et al. Available online at: http://ap.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=1359990
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