Background In much of preclinical medical education, the basics of science are still taught with little practical clinical application. I have been developing the use of a virtual patient simulator, SimMan, in large preclinical pharmacology lectures (>200 students). Use of SimMan allows students to apply their recently learned knowledge to simulated ‘real-life’ scenarios. Currently, simulation is primarily used in small group settings in clinical undergraduate and postgraduate training.1 Colleagues in other institutions have used lecture theatre based simulations, with a few students controlling the scenario and the remainder observing. I aimed to develop pharmacy based simulations in a way that required the participation of the full lecture theatre.
Methodology To enable the entire class to engage in clinical decision making, I employed split screen and interactive voting technologies. One screen projected SimMan’s vital signs; the other was linked to a Turning Point interactive quiz. At key clinical points throughout the scenarios, which included an acute asthma attack and anaphylaxis, students had to vote individually on the most appropriate course of action (e.g. which drug to use). The option with the most votes was applied to SimMan, and the students observed the physiological effects this had in real time.
Outcomes Initial evaluation of this innovation has been overwhelmingly positive. Students noted that it demonstrates the effects of drugs in a more patient centred manner and enables them to see how the content of the course applies in clinical practice.
Potential impact Engagement of students from the very first years of their medical education with realistic clinical scenarios will contextualise the importance of basic pharmacological principles. The more frequently students are guided through the clinical decision making processes surrounding the application of drugs the more likely they are to provide a higher quality of care when they encounter real patients.
Issenberg SB, McGaghie WC, Petrusa ER, Lee Gordon D, Scalese RJ. Features and uses of high-fidelity medical simulations that lead to effective learning: a BEME systematic review. Med Teach. 2005;27(1):10–28
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