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1.  Virtual patients design and its effect on clinical reasoning and student experience: a protocol for a randomised factorial multi-centre study 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:62.
Background
Virtual Patients (VPs) are web-based representations of realistic clinical cases. They are proposed as being an optimal method for teaching clinical reasoning skills. International standards exist which define precisely what constitutes a VP. There are multiple design possibilities for VPs, however there is little formal evidence to support individual design features. The purpose of this trial is to explore the effect of two different potentially important design features on clinical reasoning skills and the student experience. These are the branching case pathways (present or absent) and structured clinical reasoning feedback (present or absent).
Methods/Design
This is a multi-centre randomised 2x2 factorial design study evaluating two independent variables of VP design, branching (present or absent), and structured clinical reasoning feedback (present or absent).The study will be carried out in medical student volunteers in one year group from three university medical schools in the United Kingdom, Warwick, Keele and Birmingham. There are four core musculoskeletal topics. Each case can be designed in four different ways, equating to 16 VPs required for the research. Students will be randomised to four groups, completing the four VP topics in the same order, but with each group exposed to a different VP design sequentially. All students will be exposed to the four designs. Primary outcomes are performance for each case design in a standardized fifteen item clinical reasoning assessment, integrated into each VP, which is identical for each topic. Additionally a 15-item self-reported evaluation is completed for each VP, based on a widely used EViP tool. Student patterns of use of the VPs will be recorded.
In one centre, formative clinical and examination performance will be recorded, along with a self reported pre and post-intervention reasoning score, the DTI. Our power calculations indicate a sample size of 112 is required for both primary outcomes.
Discussion
This trial will provide robust evidence to support the effectiveness of different designs of virtual patients, based on student performance and evaluation. The cases and all learning materials will be open access and available on a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike license.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-62
PMCID: PMC3441814  PMID: 22853706
Virtual patients; Clinical reasoning; Elearning; Education; Undergraduate; Musculoskeletal; Rheumatology
2.  Nurses' perceptions and experiences of communication in the operating theatre: a focus group interview 
BMC Nursing  2006;5:1.
Abstract
Nurses' perceptions and experiences of communication in the operating theatre: a focus group interview
Background
Communication programmes are well established in nurse education. The focus of programmes is most often on communicating with patients with less attention paid to inter-professional communication or skills essential for working in specialised settings. Although there are many anecdotal reports of communication within the operating theatre, there are few empirical studies. This paper explores communication behaviours for effective practice in the operating theatre as perceived by nurses and serves as a basis for developing training.
Methods
A focus group interview was conducted with seven experienced theatre nurses from a large London teaching hospital. The interview explored their perceptions of the key as well as unique features of effective communication skills in the operating theatre. Data was transcribed and thematically analysed until agreement was achieved by the two authors.
Results
There was largely consensus on the skills deemed necessary for effective practice including listening, clarity of speech and being polite. Significant influences on the nature of communication included conflict in role perception and organisational issues. Nurses were often expected to work outside of their role which either directly or indirectly created barriers for effective communication. Perceptions of a lack of collaborative team effort also influenced communication.
Conclusion
Although fundamental communication skills were identified for effective practice in the operating theatre, there were significant barriers to their use because of confusion over clarity of roles (especially nurses' roles) and the implications for teamwork. Nurses were dissatisfied with several aspects of communication. Future studies should explore the breadth and depth of this dissatisfaction in other operating theatres, its impact on morale and importantly on patient safety. Interprofessional communication training for operating theatre staff based in part on the key issues identified in this study may help to create clarity in roles and focus attention on effective teamwork and promote clinical safety.
doi:10.1186/1472-6955-5-1
PMCID: PMC1397831  PMID: 16466581
3.  Clinical and communication skills 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;330(7488):374-375.
PMCID: PMC549095  PMID: 15718516
4.  Virtual patient design: exploring what works and why. A grounded theory study 
Medical Education  2013;47(6):595-606.
Objectives
Virtual patients (VPs) are online representations of clinical cases used in medical education. Widely adopted, they are well placed to teach clinical reasoning skills. International technology standards mean VPs can be created, shared and repurposed between institutions. A systematic review has highlighted the lack of evidence to support which of the numerous VP designs may be effective, and why. We set out to research the influence of VP design on medical undergraduates.
Methods
This is a grounded theory study into the influence of VP design on undergraduate medical students. Following a review of the literature and publicly available VP cases, we identified important design properties. We integrated them into two substantial VPs produced for this research. Using purposeful iterative sampling, 46 medical undergraduates were recruited to participate in six focus groups. Participants completed both VPs, an evaluation and a 1-hour focus group discussion. These were digitally recorded, transcribed and analysed using grounded theory, supported by computer-assisted analysis. Following open, axial and selective coding, we produced a theoretical model describing how students learn from VPs.
Results
We identified a central core phenomenon designated ‘learning from the VP’. This had four categories: VP Construction; External Preconditions; Student–VP Interaction, and Consequences. From these, we constructed a three-layer model describing the interactions of students with VPs. The inner layer consists of the student's cognitive and behavioural preconditions prior to sitting a case. The middle layer considers the VP as an ‘encoded object’, an e-learning artefact and as a ‘constructed activity’, with associated pedagogic and organisational elements. The outer layer describes cognitive and behavioural change.
Conclusions
This is the first grounded theory study to explore VP design. This original research has produced a model which enhances understanding of how and why the delivery and design of VPs influence learning. The model may be of practical use to authors, institutions and researchers.
doi:10.1111/medu.12151
PMCID: PMC3677415  PMID: 23662877

Results 1-4 (4)