Irish Medical Organisation

Virtual Patients may have a role to play in doctor training for recognition of suspected child abuse-IMJ article

Irish Medical Journal Press Release

Irish Medical Journal   SEPTEMBER 2011 ■ Volume 104 ■ Number 8

Child protection is a critical component of training for all doctors who have contact with children and their families. The Child Abuse Recognition Experience Study highlights that one of the main factors which contribute to doctors’ discomfort with the management of child abuse is their lack of education and training.
According to a study in the most recent edition of the Irish Medical Journal, a virtual learning tool – Virtual Patient - is being developed for use in recognition of child abuse. A pilot study carried out by doctors from Temple Street Children’s Hospital and RCSI sought to determine whether Basic Specialist Trainees in Ireland found a Virtual Patient (VP) to be an acceptable learning tool in the recognition of suspected child abuse. 
M McEvoy et al reported; “Studies have demonstrated that the likelihood of reporting suspected child maltreatment among practicing physicians is related to the amount of training which they receive.  Effective education and training needs to equip doctors with a range of clinical competencies including, history taking, clinical examination, documentation, communication skills and decision making ability.  In addition it needs to promote the professional development of doctors as advocates for children’s rights.
An interactive video- based Virtual Patient was developed to provide formal training for paediatric Basic Specialist Trainees in the recognition of suspected child abuse. The Virtual Patient case revolves around the management of suspected physical abuse in a seven month old child, who initially presents to the Emergency Department with viral upper respiratory tract symptoms. The Virtual Patient was used to facilitate a case discussion with Basic Specialist Trainees. A questionnaire determined their perception of the value of the Virtual Patient as an educational tool. 
Twenty five Basic Specialist Trainees completed the questionnaire. Upon completion of the case, 23/25 (92%) participants reported greater self confidence in their ability to recognize cases of suspected child abuse and 24/25 (96%) of participants reported greater self confidence in their ability to report cases of suspected child abuse. Basic Specialist Trainees perceived the Virtual Patient to be a useful educational tool. The vast majority of participants reported improvements in their knowledge, confidence and attitude towards the recognition and management of child abuse. The results identify the potential role of a virtual learning tool in enhancing postgraduate child protection training.
Although the results of this pilot study are limited to participant satisfaction and self assessment reports, the results identify the potential role which this innovative virtual learning tool can have in enhancing postgraduate child protection training. Interactive computer based programs which simulate real life clinical scenarios, are becoming an increasingly common tool in medical education.
All references are contained in the full print article on the IMJ website.
For further information contact:
Communications Unit
Irish Medical Organisation
Tel. 01 6767 273

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