Expanding the Role of Medical Simulation Technology in Medical Digestive Health Student Training

Long before they are admitted to medical school, students have well-honed studying and testtaking skills. But they often lack the skills needed to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the clinical setting. Emmanuelle D. Williams, M.D., director of gastroenterology training for second-year medical students for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, is working to change that.

“At Penn State Hershey, all of our second-year medical students (currently more than 140) are required to participate in handling initial intake of a simulated ‘patient’ who presents to the emergency department with a gastrointestinal bleed,” said Williams. The case builds directly on classroom lectures about obtaining a medical history, monitoring vital signs and differential diagnosis.

“It’s usually a very emotional experience for the students,” said Williams. “The clinical routine begins to fall apart; they don’t get a proper history, they struggle with differential diagnosis, and professionalism is lacking. It opens their eyes to the difference between book learning and applying that knowledge in the clinic.”

Penn State Hershey’s medical simulation teaching program in gastroenterology is among only a handful in the United States that uses medical simulation to teach case management to second-year medical students. “Most simulation training is procedure-focused and is reserved for more advanced fourth-year students or fellows,” explained Williams. “Simulation facilities at other institutions are more limited in size and capability so that only a few students have access to the training. By contrast, we’re using simulation to teach case management to second-year students and our facilities permit access to all of our students. ”

The experience has also proved valuable for gastroenterology and hepatology fellows who are responsible for implementing the case simulation with groups of students. “Fellows benefit because it requires them to focus on how to teach evidenced-based case management and differential diagnosis,” noted Dr. Williams.

“These are issues that they might not usually think about in their daily routine.” In fact, student feedback has been generally enthusiastic; many want to try it again.

Williams and her team are currently planning to collaborate with other specialties, including the Division of General Cardiology, as well as investigate differences between simulation and paperbased case management in second-year vs. third-year medical students.

To learn more about Penn State Hershey’s Clinical Simulation Center and to watch a video tour of the 9,500-square-foot facility, visit PennStateHershey.org/simulation. Questions about medical simulation training? E-mail Dr. Williams at ewilliams3@hmc.psu.edu.

Emmanuelle Williams, M.D.

Emmanuelle Williams, M.D.

Emmanuelle D. Williams, M.D.

  • Penn State Hershey Gastroenterology
  • Phone: 717-531-1441
  • Fellowship: Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Florida College of Medicine
  • Residency: Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center

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