Student Poster

The Role of Virtual Reality on Empathy and Attitude of Healthcare Students

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Interprofessional Student Poster Description: Dispersion of care across various providers increases with chronic conditions like diabetes. Teamwork and collaboration between healthcare professionals are essential for improving patient care and outcomes. To educate future collaborative providers, newer models for teaching, such as virtual reality (VR) have been established and implemented as tools during the pre-licensure education phase. No research has assessed the effectiveness of this innovative technology to improve knowledge, attitudes and empathy toward the population with chronic health conditions like diabetes of student physician and physician assistants.

A cohort study design was implemented on first year osteopathic medical (DO) and physician associate (PA) students during a block course of endocrinology for DO students and Research Methods course for PA students. Participants who consented self-assessed their attitudes (Diabetes Attitude Scale), empathy (Jefferson Empathy Scale) and knowledge on social determinants to health (ASCK-SDH) toward individuals with diabetes prior to and after an online cine-VR module. Students were informed of the purpose and methods of the study verbally in class and provided instructions to engage in the module and research study.

Analysis consisted of paired t test of matched pairs for DO students and descriptive statistics of general trends for the PA cohort. 151 case matched pairs of DO students were compared via t tests pre to post interactive module revealing significant increase in all 5 diabetes attitude subscales [(1) Need for special training, (2) Seriousness of type 2 diabetes, (3) Value of tight glucose control, (4) Psychosocial impact of diabetes, and (5) Attitude toward patient autonomy]. Empathy scores increased pre to post p=.02 with social determinants of health change significant pre to post at p= < 0.001. Analysis of PA students also revealed an increase in empathy and attitudes toward people with diabetes but due to limited power from decreased paired participants matching pre to post, the results, while positive, could not be analyzed for significance. The presence of cine-VR, with 360-degree virtual environment may be effective to retain humanistic components of medical education that attempts increasing empathy, attitudes toward working with patients with diabetes and knowledge on social determinants of health. Interactive modules with video with virtual reality 360 views may be effective in enhancing empathy and attitudes toward people with diabetes in medical school curriculum, specifically block-scheduled endocrinology courses with DO students. This poster discusses cine-VR technology as an effective way to extend the classroom and prepare students for collaborative practice.