Teaching Decision-Making Skills through Inexpensive Virtual Scenarios

E. Conradi, T. Poulton, and J. Round (UK)


virtual patients, decisionmaking, healthcare, games, problembased learning


Effective decision-making is a key skill for competency based training that is often not reached through traditional teaching methods. Virtual scenarios that imitate real-life can provide a powerful educational tool to develop and rehearse these skills. However, cost and time restraints often make creating such resources impractical. Virtual patients (VPs) are educational games that rehearse clinical decision-making for medical and healthcare training. St George’s University of London (SGUL) have created a generic ‘model’ for the design of virtual patients which is simple to use, yet flexible enough to simulate real decision-making. For each VP an ideal pathway is described, with critical points that control progression through the case. To navigate between the key points, a map of different interconnected possibilities is designed, with a limited number of steps and choices between each stage, that mimic the choices found in real patient encounters. Using this simple model ergonomically designed educational games are being created. Other disciplines requiring competency-based training could also use this method to create virtual scenarios. In the future, SGUL will evaluate the use of VPs as replacements for paper based cases in Problem-Based Learning tutorials, as online resources for increasing exposure to clinical cases and practicing clinical reasoning, and as assessment tools.

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