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103 Use of virtual patients to support learning about working with people with dementia
  1. A Redvers,
  2. Yvonne Pearson
  1. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, UK


This phase of the project aims to improve the skills, confidence, attitudes and ultimately competence of learners across a range of tasks involving communication with people with dementia and their families. Learning builds on individuals’ existing experience of dementia in a protected environment with real-life feedback. Facilitation is based on a curiosity driven, coaching style and is aligned with the compassionate care competence framework.

Scenarios are based on ‘real life’ situations that professionals may encounter, including: explaining a diagnosis of dementia to a carer; talking to an agitated person with dementia; meeting a person with dementia in a non-hospital setting; responding to a ‘wandering’ older person who is not cooperative and assessing consent in dementia.

Scripts are written for each scenario and filmed in short clips using actors against a green screen. The clips are arrayed on a touch screen, so each utterance by the actor can be played back by the facilitator, according to the learner’s needs. The learner is filmed in real time and projected into the virtual environment where they interact with the virtual patient, with the facilitator selecting the virtual patient’s responses from the screen. This enables the maximum number of permutations of responses, endeavouring to maintain fidelity to the flexibility of ‘real life’ conversations. The combinations of clips plus the ability to repeat situations enables the facilitator to engage the learner(s) in trying out different skills.

The vision is to create an approach to education that supports a ‘learn together to work together’ multi-professional culture including staff from care homes; A&E/Liaison teams; older age adult services; paramedics, police; non clinical staff; and therapists. Virtual environments are increasingly being used for training of complex functional skills and 3D tracking hardware provides opportunities to use interaction between the learner and simulation to practice and master key skills.

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