Medical professionals act up

Actors are helping Christchurch medical students practise the skills necessary to relate to patients.

Dr Lynette Murdoch organises the General Practice component for 4th year medical students at the University of Otago, Christchurch.  She says the General Practice Department has long employed professional actors to play the role of simulated patients.

“The consultations our students have with the simulated patients allow them to apply their knowledge to realistic situations, and to practise the skills necessary to relate well with patients.  The students receive feedback directly from the simulated patients.’’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimulated patients are people who pretend to be a particular patient with a particular condition. They can be actors or volunteers who are trained in order for the students to meet predetermined learning objectives.

The University of Otago, Christchurch educates medical students between their fourth to sixth and final year.  Students move between different specialities such as general practice and paediatrics. They also spend time at the Simulation Centre, which provides a safe environment for them, and postgraduate nursing students, to practise clinical and professional skills. They make use of high-technology manikins and Simulation Centre director Dr MaryLeigh Moore is investigating the greater use of actors, as well as at some stage recruiting volunteers from the community.

Dr Moore recently returned from a learning trip to a well-established Australian programme using simulated patients and volunteers

She explains: “Volunteers  – community members who are healthy or who have chronic illness – can contribute valuable learning opportunities to students by simply being themselves, and increasing opportunities for students to interact with a range of people.’’

“’Simulated patients bring consistency to their presentations and responses as opposed to the ‘real’ and varied responses and perspectives of volunteers.’’

Dr Moore says the benefits to the students are very real and volunteers and simulated patients can also experience a significant sense of reward from contributing to the training of doctors.

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This guest post was written by Kim Thomas,  Senior Communications Advisor, University of Otago, Christchurch, www.uoc.otago.ac.nz.

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