In anticipation of the start of their clinical externships, third-year students at RVUCOM participated in Fundamentals of Clinical Medicine (FCM), a course that prepares them, through hyper-realistic simulations and virtual reality, to meet with patients in a clinical setting. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s course also included online sessions, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) workshops, and social distancing.
The FCM course tests students on all of the knowledge and skills they have accrued over the past two years. “Students must demonstrate their skills in clinical reasoning and critical thinking, reviewing a patient’s history, physical examinations, and oral presentations,” explained Joseph M. Stasio, DO, FACOFP, Chair of the Department of Primary Care Medicine. A key emphasis of the simulations is the presentation of the diagnosis in a SOAP note format (SOAP being an acronym for subjective, objective, assessment, and plan). David Ross, DO, FACEP, Director of the Rural and Wilderness Medicine Track, who designed and supervised the hyper-realistic manikin simulation cases, said that the simulations were fairly complicated cases—more so than students would ever see as third- or fourth-year students—which they would need to compartmentalize into a four-minute-long presentation. “We wanted them to complete [the presentation] in that SOAP format because they will do that every time they see [an actual] patient.”
Students rotated through workshops on surgical knot tying, suturing, and Advanced Cardiac Life Support/Basic Life Support (ACLS/BLS) and Intensive Care Unit skills. For the first time, local Emergency Medical Services personnel also assisted in the ACLS/BLS simulation workshops. Students participated in a workshop aimed at preparing them for providing healthcare safely during a pandemic. In this workshop, students (who were divided into groups of eight) learned about PPE and the extremely specific guidelines for donning and doffing masks, gloves, gowns, and more. As part of new FCM protocols, students also remained in PPE for the duration of the course and abided by social distancing guidelines. This workshop, and the FCM course as a whole, demonstrated the impact that the pandemic has had on the education of osteopathic medical students.
This year, the FCM course introduced virtual reality as a learning tool. In a dedicated workshop, students wore Oculus Rift VR headsets that displayed 2D and 3D images of an interactive hospital room. As Susan Carter, MD, FACOG, FACS, Director of the Office of Simulation in Medicine and Surgery (SIMS), explained, VR is just another tool to reach different learners. “You have audio learners and visual learners…[virtual reality] is a combination of both.” The hands-on component of VR has also been proven to aid in retention of skills for longer periods of time. RVU will continue to integrate VR technology, including a women’s health module later this year and more immersive, augmented reality experiences into its curriculum delivery. With the goal of making VR a standard part of the curriculum, second-year students in the COM and PA (as well as MSBS students) will have access to their own VR subscription.