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Virtual reality simulated learning environments: A strategy to teach interprofessional students about social determinants of health

Buitron de la Vega P, Dimitri N, Araujo Brinkerhoff C, Stern A, Damus K, Miselis H, Garg PS, Sarfaty S, Sprague Martinez L
Acad Med

PURPOSE: Physician assistants (PAs) and medical degree students (MDs) often lack training in addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH). Social workers (SWs), meanwhile, have extensive SDOH training; however, few medical professionals have opportunities to engage in interprofessional training with social workers. This study examined the feasibility, acceptability, and students' perceptions of an interprofessional virtual reality (VR) simulated learning environment (SLE) for teaching health professions students about the SDOH. METHOD: In January 2020, 15 students at Boston University School of Medicine attended web-based video conferences focused on SDOH, health equity, and team-based care. Subsequently, student dyads participated in a case-based learning activity using an immersive VR SLE to develop teamwork skills. Evaluation included a postsurvey and a focus group examining their experiences in the course to gauge feasibility and acceptability. Thematic analysis of open-ended survey responses from the postsurvey and focus group data was conducted. RESULTS: A total of 8 VR simulations were run. Findings indicated both MD and PA students learned patient engagement strategies from SW students, who enhanced their health care leadership capacity. Participants found the means of instruction acceptable, valued the hands-on VR interprofessional training, and expressed interest in learning more about the scope of one another's roles and the community resources available to patients. CONCLUSIONS: VR SLE is a feasible and acceptable means of instruction. It allowed students to connect across programmatic and geographic boundaries in a collaborative working environment mimicking the team approach to care they will use in their professional life. This experience illustrated for students the strengths a multidisciplinary team has to offer.

Buitron de la Vega P, Dimitri N, Araujo Brinkerhoff C, et al. Virtual reality simulated learning environments: a strategy to teach interprofessional students about social determinants of health. Acad Med. 2022 Jun 14.  DOI:10.1097/acm.0000000000004776. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35703204

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