The use of simulation to teach suicide risk assessment to health profession trainees - Rationale, methodology, and a proof of concept demonstration with a virtual patient

Adriana Foster, Neelam Chaudhary, James Murphy, Benjamin Lok, Jennifer Waller, Peter F. Buckley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: There is increasing use of educational technologies in medical and surgical specialties. Described herein is the development and application of an interactive virtual patient (VP) to teach suicide risk assessment to health profession trainees. We studied the effect of the following: (1) an interaction with a bipolar VP who attempts suicide or (2) completion of a video-teaching module on interviewing a bipolar patient, on medical students' proficiency in assessing suicide risk in standardized patients. We hypothesized that students who interact with a bipolar VP will be at least as likely to assess suicide risk, as their peers who completed a video module. Methods: In a randomized, controlled study, we compared the frequency with which second-year students at the Medical College of Georgia asked suicide risk and bipolar symptoms questions by VP/video group. Results: We recruited 67 students. The VP group inquired more frequently than the video group in 4 of 5 suicide risk areas and 11 of 14 other bipolar symptomatology areas. There were minimal to small effect sizes in favor of the VP technology. The students preferred the video over the VP as an educational tool (p = 0.007). Conclusions: Our study provides proof of concept that both VP and video module approaches are feasible for teaching students to assess suicide risk, and we present evidence about the role of active learning to improve communication skills. Depending on the learning context, interviewing a VP or observation of a videotaped interview can enhance the students' suicide risk assessment proficiency in an interview with a standardized patient. An interactive VP is a plausible modality to deliver basic concepts of suicide risk assessment to medical students, can facilitate individual preferences by providing easy access and portability, and has potential generalizability to other aspects of psychiatric training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-629
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Volume39
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Keywords

  • Communication Checklist
  • Suicide risk
  • Video
  • Virtual patient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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