Teaching first-year medical students physiology: does the human patient simulator allow for more effective teaching?

Singapore Med J. 2002 May;43(5):238-42.


Background: Although the Human Patient Simulator (HPS) is an effective teaching tool in many medical fields, literature supporting its use in the teaching of physiology to medical students is lacking. This study investigated the effectiveness of HPS-based teaching of cardiovascular physiology to first-year medical students.

Methods: Two hundred and ten first-year medical students were scheduled to our HPS laboratory with the purpose of demonstrating "physiology in action". Students were divided into groups of 19-25 each, and attended a lecture followed by a HPS session. Using a theatre-type simulator complete with mannequin, anaesthesia machine and monitors (METI, Sarasota FL), the scenarios of hypovolaemia, sepsis, and cardiac failure were run to demonstrate the physiological changes that occur with changes in preload, afterload, and cardiac contractility. Each student was given a true/false test before, and again after the HPS session, followed by a survey of their learning experience.

Results: There was marked improvement in test scores after the HPS session (82.1% vs. 64.6%, P < 0.001). Most of the students felt that HPS was a better teaching tool (94.5%) and raised more questions (76.5%) than lectures. They wanted more topics to be taught this way (96%), as they could apply and re-enforce textbook knowledge, and visualise real-time changes. However, they felt that their experience could have been enhanced with more time and smaller groups.

Discussion: HPS is an excellent teaching tool as it stimulates student curiosity and makes knowledge acquisition and understanding easier. It is highly desirable to be incorporated into the teaching of physiology.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / education*
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Education, Medical / standards*
  • Humans
  • Manikins
  • Physiology / education
  • Teaching*