Medical simulations help students retain information
24 July 2009
Simulating medical scenarios helps medical students learn and retain
vital information, according to a new study done by researchers at Wake
Forest University School of Medicine in the US.
The study, recently published in Medical Teacher, shows that
medical students not only enjoy patient-simulation experiences but also
learn more from them, said Michael T. Fitch, M.D., Ph.D., the senior
author of the paper and an associate professor of emergency medicine at
the School of Medicine.
“There’s no question that people like it,” Fitch said. “People really
enjoy participating in an immersive learning environment. The purpose of
this study was to find out whether this also makes our students learn
and retain knowledge better.”
For the study, first-year medical students received a traditional
lecture on basic neuroscience concepts from a faculty member, followed
by a brief questionnaire in an informal class exercise two days later.
Three days after that, without further discussion of the
questionnaire or receiving answers, those same students participated in
a 90-minute live simulation of a medical emergency. Students were told
that the patient – “SimMan,” a computerized mannequin that can be
programmed to have different medical problems – had altered mental
status, nausea and vomiting.
A team of physicians played the roles of EMS workers, nurses and
family members, and the students worked through the decision making
process to arrive at a diagnosis. The physician running the simulation
stopped action periodically to lead the group in discussion of the basic
neuroscience concepts being learned during the scenario.
Typically, such simulations are used in small groups and in clinical
settings, but the School of Medicine started experimenting with the use
of simulation in student neuroscience lecture settings in 2006.
Immediately after the simulation, the students were presented with
the same four questions they were asked following the lecture. Their
answers showed that they were much more likely to demonstrate mastery of
the information by answering all four questions correctly on the
post-simulation test than on the post-lecture only test, Fitch said.
For two of the four questions, significantly more students chose the
correct answer on the post-simulation test than on the post-lecture
test, while little or no change was seen on the other two questions.
“We’re interested in developing new and innovative ways to teach
medical information,” Fitch said, adding that the results of the study
could spur medical schools to consider more large-group simulation
exercises in addition to traditional lectures.
“Seeing how things apply to clinical practice is very important in
medical training. Students may remember a specific patient encounter and
anchor that memory to the information provided, which can improve
learning and lead to long-term retention of information.”
Bookmark this page