The Emotional and Behavioral Impact of Delivering Bad News to Virtual versus Real Standardized Patients: A Pilot Study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Phenomenon: Virtual standardized patients (vSPs) are becoming increasingly common in medical education, though one limitation of vSPs is the artificiality of computer-based simulators. Past research on the use of vSPs has not clearly established whether learners have different emotional responses to real SPs (rSPs) compared with vSPs; however, understanding learners' emotional responses to vSPs is important in providing realistic learning experiences and establishing the validity of this teaching and assessment tool. This study compared the emotional experiences of individuals who interacted with rSPs and vSPs. Approach: Sixty medical students at a medical school in the southeastern United States participated in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to deliver bad news to an rSP or vSP. The vSP for this study used a hybrid intelligence model that allowed a person to "inhabit" the vSP. Salivary cortisol and a self-report measure of mood-the Profile of Mood States, Second Edition (POMS 2)-were gathered before and after delivering the bad news. The SP and 2 independent evaluators rated the behavioral performance of each participant in real and virtual conditions. Participants also rated the performance of the SP. Findings: Participants in both conditions reported increased negative emotionality on the POMS 2 following the SP interaction. There were no significant between-group differences on the POMS 2 or salivary cortisol concentration following the SP interaction. Ratings by the SP and independent evaluators indicated that participants performed similarly on most interpersonal dimensions, except tone of voice. Participants perceived the vSP as less realistic than the rSP. Insights: These results suggest that medical students may have similar emotional and behavioral responses when delivering bad news to a vSP when compared to an rSP. These findings provide support for the continued use of vSPs in training learners to deliver bad news and other communication-based skills and to assess their performance on these tasks.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • O'Rourke, SR; Branford, KR; Brooks, TL; Ives, LT; Nagendran, A; Compton, SN

Published Date

  • 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 32 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 139 - 149

PubMed ID

  • 31437006

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-8015

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/10401334.2019.1652180


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States