Implementing a simulated client program: bridging the gap between theory and practice

Cindy L Adams, Lynda D Ladner
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2004, 31 (2): 138-45

INTRODUCTION: This paper outlines the design and implementation of an innovative communication skills training program at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). Based upon the body of research in human medical education reporting effective results through the use of standardized patients (SPs) for this type of training, an experiential learning laboratory using simulated clients (SCs) and patients was introduced to first-year veterinary students.

METHOD: One hundred and four first-year students were assigned to 12 groups of eight or nine students plus a facilitator. Each student interacted with a simulated client and a patient while being observed by peers and a facilitator. The Calgary-Cambridge Observation Guide (CCOG) was used to guide students and facilitators with performance standards and feedback. Assessment strategies were utilized.

RESULTS: Implementation of this program required extensive resources, including funding, expertise, facilitator training, time allotment in an already overburdened curriculum, and administrative and faculty support. Preliminary assessment revealed high student and facilitator satisfaction. The potential of this program for student education and assessment was recognized, and it will be expanded in years 2 and 3 of the DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) curriculum.

CONCLUSIONS: Medical educators have created resources, including skills checklists and experiential learning modalities, that are highly applicable to veterinary medical education. Ongoing evaluation of the program is essential to determine whether we are meeting expectations for communication competency in veterinary medicine.

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