- College of Medicine Faculty News
The seasoned doctor inserted a needle between two vertebrae in the lower back to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid as the resident watched. Roles reversed with the next patient, and it was the resident’s turn to perform what she had just witnessed.
That system of sink-or-swim training on real patients was common for generations of doctors, but now simulation-based learning is transforming medical education. The UCF College of Medicine and clinical skills director Dr. Juan Cendan are leading that change, guests learned at an October 15 event at the college.
“Dr. Cendan is an innovative health leader who exemplifies 21st-century medicine,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean as she described her experience as a resident learning about spinal taps. The gathering was sponsored by financial adviser Conrad Santiago, a member of College of Medicine’s Dean’s Aesculapian Society and trustee emeritus of the UCF Board of Trustees.
As part of the event, participants toured the college’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center. The 7,500-square-foot state-of-the-art center allows students to gain hands-on experience with essential skills such as obtaining a medical history, developing treatment management plans, and counseling patients.
Students can train on a virtual simulation patient who is programmed to represent particular conditions or a lifelike medical mannequin who helps them learn to distinguish particular heart, lung and bowel sounds – all important clues in a diagnosis. Rounding out the experience are standardized patients, individuals trained to provide a specific medical history so that students can reinforce exam and communication skills.
“We think about how we teach…that’s what gets me going,” said Dr. Cendan. An active researcher, Dr. Cendan is developing virtual patients that can train students in various conditions and is evaluating their use as a learning tool. He presented data from a UCF trial of 57 medical students that showed students working in three-member teams with a virtual patient exhibiting cranial nerve damage outperformed students who completed exercises as individuals. In other words, medical students tend to learn better as a team, Dr. Cendan said.
Virtual patients can simulate conditions that standardized patients can’t, Dr. Cendan said.
“We have a catalog of 12 different virtual humans that students can interact with onscreen,” he said. “They can even ‘see’ through the eyes of a cranial nerve patient to experience double vision.”
Experiencing a patient’s symptoms will help students develop empathy, Dr. Cendan said. They will be prompted to ask a patient experiencing double vision, for examples, questions such as “How did you get here today? How are you taking care of your family?”