Comparing student attitudes to different models of the same virtual patient

M Bearman, B Cesnik
Studies in Health Technology and Informatics 2001, 84 (Pt 2): 1004-8

AIMS: Two types of virtual patient designs can be distinguished - a 'narrative' structure and a 'problem-solving' structure (1). This study assesses attitudes of students with respect to learning communication skills via a virtual patient; and compares acceptability of the two different types of virtual patient designs.

METHODS: Two virtual patients were constructed around the same case, each emphasising a narrative or problem-solving model. Undergraduate medical students used the simulations as part of a communication skills program. A computer-based survey was used to assess attitude.

RESULTS: There was general acceptance of the use of the computer-based simulated patient. Students who generally performed better at communication skills, were more positive towards the virtual patient. There was no quantitative difference in acceptability between the two designs, but there were clear qualitative differences.

CONCLUSIONS: While students were moderately positive about both simulations, qualitative data indicated that their were clear differences in attitude between the two different designs.

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