Limited access to patients, economic factors and reduced hospital stays mean the opportunity for student-patient contact is reduced. However, as Benjamin explains, patient contact is crucial for helping the students develop their diagnostic skills.
“Here at Heidelberg many of the patients have very special diseases which the student may not get to see at the University Hospital,” says Benjamin. “Other patients may not stay very long at the hospital, so there is less chance for the students to see them, and to learn from them.”
Virtual patients are valuable for bridging that gap between theoretical knowledge and working with real patients. However, they are not intended to replace real patient contact, they are intended to supplement the student’s learning experience.
As Benjamin explains: “We want the student to learn as much as he or she can learn using virtual patients, then when it comes to the real encounter with the real patient they are best prepared for that, and they can take the maximum profit out of it.”
Their repurposed VPs have incorporated established learning strategies that make clinical skill development easier for the student. “The ultimate idea is the creation of an abstract summary of problems, then generate hypotheses, highlight disease features and then try to discriminate against other diseases, or ask for a typical presentation of another disease,” explains Benjamin.
“This will teach the students what they should think like when presented with a certain disease, or problem.”
You can listen to Benjamin describe his experiences working with eViP VPs here: