Poster Presentations

P-28: Using Standardized Patients in a Teaching Setting to Enhance Optometric Specific Communication Skills

Mr. Aaron Geekie-Sousa

Aaron Geekie-Sousa BAH, PMP*;
Jenna Bright BSc, MSc, OD*

McMaster University
Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

Topic: Education

Background & Objective
A need for practical opportunities to develop communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal) in the International Optometric Bridging Program’s (IOBP) communication curriculum was identified after receiving feedback from students and identifying weaknesses in patient care and proficiencies on the national board examination. Working with the Waterloo Regional Standardized Patient Program (WRSPP), the IOBP developed and delivered clinical learning opportunities using standardized patients (SPs) intended to enhance the communication and technical skills of the students enrolled in the IOBP.

Located at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry & Vision Science, the IOBP was developed in 2004 in response to the Canadian provincial and federal governments mandate to decrease barriers for international applicants to healthcare professions in Canada. Successful completion of the IOBP is a registration requirement for international optometric graduates (individuals educated outside of North America) before they are eligible to challenge the Canadian national board examinations and proceed with provincial registration. Goals of the IOBP include addressing educational gaps (didactic and clinical), deficient occupation-specific language and communication skills, cultural differences, and a need for Canadian workplace orientation and experience.

The WRSPP was developed in 2014 by McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine’s Waterloo Regional Campus and the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy with the goal of providing dynamic opportunities for learning using SPs in training, education and assessment. A standardized patient is a person trained to simulate the medical history, emotional characteristics, and expectations of an actual patient realistically, accurately, and consistently. SPs are also trained to provide students with objective feedback from the patient’s perspective. Their feedback is focused on the overall patient experience with a specific focus on rapport-building and both verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

The clinical laboratories in which SPs were utilized simulated patient encounters that focused on the patient interview, refraction and patient counselling. Prior to each lab, SPs received individualized training on their assigned case.  During the labs, after each timed encounter, SPs provided feedback from the patient’s perspective on the student’s interpersonal communication skills with particular focus on Canadian cultural norms which was followed by feedback from the supervising optometrist.

Following the administration of each of the clinical laboratories, both the bridging students and the clinical supervisors received surveys to provide the IOBP with anonymous feedback.  By far, the feedback received from all participants was very positive. Most of the students were appreciative of the experience and felt their communication skills going forward would be enhanced. All of the supervisors felt the labs were very effective teaching tools.

The laboratories provided IOBP students with a unique opportunity to practise their clinical and communication skills in clinical situations with SPs and receive feedback as a means of enhancing their communication skills as preparation for Canadian optometric practice.