Virtual patients: an effective educational intervention to improve paediatric basic specialist trainee education in the management of suspected child abuse?
Child abuse is a particularly difficult subject to teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Most doctors are dissatisfied with their training in child abuse recognition and management. We developed an interactive video based Virtual Patient to provide formal training for paediatric Basic Specialist Trainees in the recognition of suspected child abuse. The Virtual Patient case revolves around the management of suspected physical abuse in a seven month old child, who initially presents to the Emergency Department with viral upper respiratory tract symptoms. This Virtual Patient was used to facilitate a case discussion with Basic Specialist Trainees. A questionnaire was developed to determine their perception of the value of the Virtual Patient as an educational tool. Twenty five Basic Specialist Trainees completed the questionnaire. Upon completion of the case, 23/25 (92%) participants reported greater self confidence in their ability to recognize cases of suspected child abuse and 24/25 (96%) of participants reported greater self confidence in their ability to report cases of suspected child abuse. Basic Specialist Trainees perceived the Virtual Patient to be a useful educational tool. Virtual Patients may have a role to play in enhancing postgraduate training in the recognition of suspected child abuse.