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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Teaching compassionate medicine via a web-tool

Society continues to consume an increasing amount of its media in more interactive ways, in terms of music, videos and games. The medical community is also taking steps to provide its students with the tools to make learning more engaging and convenient. More specifically, medical students are gaining a new way to learn how to deal with end of life situations as a result of the eDoctoring program created by top medical professionals throughout California.

The program aims to better prepare medical students for real end of life situations and increase learning by making the process more intuitive.

“Doctors in California were doing poorly in issues pertaining to dying and end of life,” said Michael Wilkes, director of global health at the UC Davis School of Medicine. “The state advised medical schools around the state to improve these things.”

Wilkes, who is the program’s leading expert, said that the program approaches education in a different manner.

“Education has always been here and now; at the end of your time, you’re done. This tool makes you take and apply the learning that you’ve gone through,” Wilkes said.

The eDoctoring program features interactive videos and scenarios that help medical students get acclimated with situations they will face with patients approaching the ends of their lives. Along with presenting medical students with several aspects of problems a patient might be experiencing, it provides students with feedback on the exercises they partake in.

“The program gives hyperlinks and ways to go back and see what you’ve done, and areas where you can improve,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes said that the program instructs students in three critical areas: knowledge, attitude and skills.

“We know what patients die of, but what happens in the last few hours of their life? What do they want and feel?” Wilkes said.

Wilkes said that students learn to develop an attitude that even though a patient is dying, there are many things that happen before dying; before just giving up on the patient.

“In terms of skills, it’s knowing how to apply what has been learned and the attitudes you’ve developed,” Wilkes said.

Mark A. Robinson, master social worker and campus planner at the UC Davis Academic Geriatric Resource Center — a center that advocates training aimed at improving the care provided for aging adults — used his 20 plus years of experience to tune and polish the program. Robinson believes the program is very beneficial.

“It features enactment of real life drama. It draws students in and takes them through what is being done, and what can be done differently,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that students are often concerned with asking about data, facts and diagnoses, but are sometimes not aware of the process of when it is a good time to talk with a patient.

“Life and death situations are intense. If you reduce the situations to lab tests, acronyms and abbreviations, it doesn’t bring in the real difficulty of improving end of life care,” Robinson said.

He also believes that the program is beneficial because it gives students the opportunity to critique the ways more experienced students and doctors approach a situation, in their own time.

Liz Fierro, a third-year medical student at the UC Davis School of Medicine, agrees with Robinson in the convenience the program provides.

“Convenience is one of the biggest advantages,” Fierro said. “Sessions are only 30 minutes, which is nice because it’s a short period of time when compared to three-hour class discussions.”

Fierro said that the topics the program touches on are interesting and important.

“Generally, they are pretty difficult cases; it’s nice to see a video of somebody approaching a situation in a not-so effective way, and then in a better way,” Fierro said. “I think that it’s enjoyable, a good supplement, and I like that it’s part of our curriculum.”

The eDoctoring program is seeing widespread adoption in medical schools throughout California; it is continuing to garner evermore attention nationally and internationally for its ability to provide students and doctors alike with a well-developed and engaging web tool, according to Robinson and Wilkes.

ERIC C. LIPSKY can be reached science@theaggie.org.

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