Integrating virtual patients in pediatrics

by Małgorzata Sudacka, Collegium Medicum Jagiellonian University

This year, recently, I had the pleasure to examine several students from the School of Medicine in English who were supposed to take the oral part of their final exam from Pediatrics. It was a stressful task for me because I am not a very experienced clinician, so I was looking for some helpful tools in order just to make this exam objective, attractive and paragonable. It is not always very easy to find parents who fluently speak English and want to participate in the oral exams with the whole history taking and physical examination, so I needed some tools to partially substitute this process.  Having not very much time for my preparation I decided to use the virtual patient that I’ve prepared recently for the ICoViP project. Solving the case on the computer before physical examination of the real patient with similar symptoms gave my students a kind of warm-up exercise and a good background for clinical discussion. Examinees seemed surprised at the very beginning, that there was an additional task to be done, but after a while, they all found themselves deeply engaged in the case and very interested. It gave us a very nice introduction to the clinical discussion. From their perspective, it was a good possibility for them in order to show their clinical reasoning skills. After dealing with the virtual case, they were each time asked to physically examine the patient with similar symptoms as were mentioned in the case, but not necessarily the same diagnosis. If they had produced a nice list of differentials during the case solving, the real physical examination and discussion about the differentials afterward were much easier for them. I will definitely use virtual patients for formative and summative assessments in the future. I will also prepare myself to use them during the bedsides when there is no patient with particularly important symptoms available on the ward. Using them made my exam session more educational and objective and gave my students the nice possibility to show their reasoning. 

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