JOURNAL ARTICLE

Comparison of effect between simulated patient clinical skill training and student role play on objective structured clinical examination performance outcomes for medical students in Australia

Silas Taylor MEd, Matthew Haywood, Boaz Shulruf
Journal of Educational Evaluation for Health Professions 2019, 16: 3
30665274

PURPOSE: Optimal methods for communication skills training (CST) is an active area for research but the effect on communication performance in objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE) has not been so closely studied. Student role play (RP) for CST is common whilst volunteer simulated patient (SP) CST is cost-effective and provides authentic interactions. We assessed whether our volunteer SP CST improved OSCE performance compared to our previous RP strategy.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective, quasi-experimental study of two second year medical student cohorts' OSCE data in Australia. The 2014 cohort received RP-only CST (N=182) while the 2016 cohort received SP-only CST (N=148). T-test and ANOVA were used to compare the total scores for three assessment domains: generic communication, clinical communication and physical examination/procedural skills.

RESULTS: Baseline characteristics for groups (scores for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and medicine program interview) showed no significantt difference between groups. For each domain, the SP-only CST group demonstrated superior outcomes in the OSCE and the difference between cohorts was significant (P < 0.01). Volunteer SP CST was superior to student RP CST when considering OSCE performance outcome., which was found across generic and clinical communication skills, and physical examination/procedural skills.

CONCLUSION: Better performance of the SP cohort in physical examination/procedural skills might be explained by the requirement for patient compliance and cooperation, facilitated by good generic communication skills. We recommend a volunteer SP Program as an effective and efficient way to improve CST for junior medical students.

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