Virtual patient consultations and the use of an ePortfolio assessment to support student learning of integrated professional skills
Introduction: Exercise physiology is a relatively new allied health profession and requires extensive knowledge and competency to assist patients with the management of chronic disease. Providing large numbers of students with meaningful training in competency development is important but challenging. The use of filmed or virtual patient consultations (vConsults) may support the student learning process and could be a valuable method of teaching effective teamwork skills, clinical reasoning and reflective thinking.
Methods: Patient consultations were created using a virtual case study platform. The aims of the study were to determine whether virtual consultations (vConsults) can enhance the learning of professional skills and to assess their impact on student learning. Data were collected using a questionnaire and by qualitatively analysing student reflections within ePortfolios.
Results: The vConsults significantly improved student confidence (p < 0.001) in conducting a cancer patient consultation, developing an exercise program to service the needs of a patient and talking with medical specialists about cancer diagnosis and treatment. All students agreed or strongly agreed that vConsults were interesting and engaging. They concurred that vConsults enabled self-paced learning, provided immediate feedback, supported their ability to work in groups and clarified and justified their thoughts with respect to patient management. Student also liked vConsults potential for future use in their practice. Most students (98%) found the structure of the model interactive and easy to follow, and all stated that the content helped them to understand clinically relevant concepts and that they would like to use more virtual consultations in their future learning.
Conclusions: Pilot testing and ePortfolio assessment showed good acceptance by students, supporting their self-directed learning, reflective thinking, teamwork skills and clinical confidence.
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