Understanding leads to empathy
The Virtual Dementia Tour is designed to give participants a firsthand view of the physical and cognitive impairments patients with dementia experience. During the interactive portion, participants are put in a dark room wearing glasses, headphones and gloves that simulate the tactile and sensory limitations that often come along with dementia. Participants in the tour are then asked to perform basic activities of daily living, with which patients with dementia often struggle.
“I had one woman go through the course, and she was kind of nervously laughing the entire time,” Dr. Otto said. “She sounded exactly like a patient we had in the nursing home who had advanced dementia.”
In answering research questions following the experience, students touted it as a tool that gave them a better understanding of the condition and more empathy to those living with it.
“Empathy was something they were able to draw out of their experience,” Dr. Otto said. Students were “blown away” by what they absorbed. “Learning through the actual experience of going through the simulation, they gained a lot from that, even without necessarily having the exposure to patients.”
The Virtual Dementia Tour offers a chance for standardized curriculum on dementia among University of Florida medical students who are encountering patients in a variety of settings during their geriatric clerkship.
“Simulation is critical to how students are learning,” Dr. Otto said. “Simulation helps us to at least bring one of these major topics to the floor for everybody. Cognitive impairment and physical disability are things you might not think are easy to recreate for someone who does not suffer from them. [The simulation] changes their feelings about that patient population.”
The presentation about simulating dementia was among dozens that took place during the ChangeMedEd conference. The event showcased how the AMA, through its Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative, is working to reimagine and shape the future of medical education.