EARLY CLINICAL EXPOSURE – Development and validation of simulated virtual patients to impart early clinical exposure in endocrine physiology

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In the country presently, preclinical medical students are not routinely exposed to real patients. Thus, when they start clinical postings, they are found to have poor clinical reasoning skills. Simulated virtual patients (SVPs) can improve clinical skills without endangering real patients. This pilot study describes the development of two SVPs in endocrine physiology and their validation in terms of acquisition of clinical knowledge and student engagement. Two SVPs, Nandini Sharma (unintentional weight gain) and Sunil Yadav (polyuria), were created and published on the i-Human Patients platform through an iterative, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary collaborative process using the conceptual framework of Kim et al. (Kim S, Phillips WR, Pinsky L, Brock D, Phillips K, Keary J. Med Educ40: 867–876, 2006). After internal and external peer validation, the SVPs were piloted on 40 students (20 students per virtual patient) over 2 wk. A cognitive pretest was conducted before exposure, and a posttest soon after. Faculty and student feedback were collected. Faculty found SVPs authentic, helpful as teaching-learning tools, and useful for giving feedback and for assessment. Students found SVPs more engaging than paper cases and helpful in developing clinical reasoning and in imparting clinical exposure. Pretest and posttest scores indicated knowledge gain (P < 0.01). Although challenging to create, SVPs created on the i-Human Patients platform improved learning in endocrine physiology and were well accepted by students and faculty as a means to provide early clinical exposure. More SVPs can be developed through collaboration between stakeholder departments and integrated into the curriculum for greater benefit.


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