- Burnett School College of Medicine Faculty News
Medical simulations and new educational technology can help medical students and residents gain the specific skills they need to become qualified physicians, a College of Medicine research director and faculty member told participants at an international conference recently.
Dr. Anya Andrews’ presentation, “Maximizing the Learning Value of Medical Simulations through Evidence-based Instructional Design,” discussed how digital environments – like virtual patients with virtual symptoms – can help students gain, build upon and use knowledge better than reading and lectures.
“The focus of my presentation was on how to apply sound instructional systems design principles to medical simulations in order to create compelling learning experiences that illustrate real-life healthcare challenges and help advance the development of target competencies in medical students and trainees,” she said.
“The field of medical simulation uses innovative technologies to illustrate some of the biggest challenges in medicine, in a way that some of the conventional teaching methods, like lecture or self-study, cannot.”
Dr. Juan Cendán, chair of medical education, professor of surgery and assistant dean for simulation, co-authored the presentation. He has developed a Neurological Examination Rehearsal Virtual Environment (NERVE) simulation, which features a computerized patient suffering from cranial nerve damage. The conditions can be difficult to diagnose and is often unseen by medical students. Standardized patients (actors) cannot pretend to have it because the condition causes the eyeballs to go in different directions. A real patient with the condition could not be studied because they must be seen immediately in an emergency room. For that reason, simulation offers a perfect educational setting. The virtual patient can easily illustrate the condition and be examined with a digital ophthalmoscope. “The simulation allows students to experience a slice of reality in a virtual environment and interact with virtual patients in a way that is very similar to a real clinical experience,” Dr. Andrews said.
She presented the research at the seventh annual International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE), July 27-31 in Orlando.
The multidisciplinary conference featured a diverse group of presenters, from the chief technology officer of Florida Hospital’s Nicholson Center, Dr. Roger Smith, to Her Imperial Highness Princess Yohko of Japan. More than 1,600 participants attended the conference, which brought together researchers and practitioners to discuss the latest in functional design and how to optimize tools and devices for human use.
Dr. Andrews is an expert in medical simulation technology and was recognized by the Orlando Business Journal earlier this year as a “Woman to Watch” for her thought leadership. She first became interested in educational simulation 17 years ago, when she attended her first simulation conference in Amsterdam.
“I felt like I was in a theme park. I was intrigued by the idea that as a designer and developer of these simulation-based learning experiences, you have the opportunity to create something really engaging and compelling for the learners.”
Computer-based simulation began during World War II for training pilots. Orlando has become a major a simulation hub in the last quarter of the 20th century. However, simulation is just beginning to be incorporated into medical education, Dr. Andrews said.
“It’s still a new area that’s relatively untapped and in need of further research,” she said. “I believe in the future, you will see medical simulations that are more intelligent and adaptable to the learner’s skill levels and learning styles.”
The technology behind medical simulations has improved exponentially, but strategies for effectively teaching using that technology have been slower to develop. In her presentation, Dr. Andrews provided practical recommendations for how to bridge this gap. These included utilizing story elements to help make virtual patient encounters more believable, and incorporating feedback during and after the simulated learning experience to enhance learner motivation.
“Because it’s such a new school, the College of Medicine is in a unique position to be a national leader in new educational technology,” she said. “We are an exciting place to be because we are not afraid to think outside the box,” she said. “We are very eager to embrace some of the newest innovative approaches and tools for education, research, and patient care.”