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Acad Med. 2003 May;78(5):538-45.

Is virtual the same as real? Medical students' experiences of a virtual patient.

Author information

1
Monash Institute of Health Services Research, Monash University, Clayton Victoria, Australia. margaret.bearman@med.monash.edu.au

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Narrative and problem-solving versions of the same virtual patient's case were created for teaching communication skills to medical students. This qualitative study explored how students experienced the virtual patient.

METHOD:

In 1998-1999 in-depth, free-form interviews and follow-ups were conducted with 12 third-year medical students at Monash University in Australia. Students were asked about their experiences with the virtual patient. The interviews were qualitatively analyzed using psychological phenomenology.

RESULTS:

Results were in the form of a description of the students' lived experiences with the virtual patient. Findings indicated that students responded to the virtual patient as if she were real but they felt a simultaneous sense of prefabrication, which often led to frustration. Students' experiences of both versions were similar, but the narrative version permitted better rapport with the virtual patient.

CONCLUSION:

This phenomenological study indicated that a constructed, computer-based virtual patient can have substantial emotional effects on medical students.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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