Background: Communication skills can be difficult to teach and assess in busy outpatient settings. These skills are important for effective counseling such as in cases of influenza vaccine hesitancy. It is critical to consider novel educational methods to supplement current strategies aimed at teaching relational skills.
Methods: An immersive virtual reality (VR) curriculum on addressing influenza vaccine hesitancy was developed using Kern's six-step approach to curriculum design. The curriculum was meant to teach best-practice communication skills in cases of influenza vaccine hesitancy. Eligible participants included postgraduate level (PL) 2 and PL-3 pediatric residents (n = 24). Immediately following the curriculum, a survey was administered to assess residents' attitudes toward the VR curriculum and perceptions regarding the effectiveness of VR in comparison to other educational modalities. A survey was administered 1 month following the VR curriculum to assess trainee-perceived impact of the curriculum on clinical practice.
Results: All eligible residents (n = 24) completed the curriculum. Ninety-two percent (n = 22) agreed or strongly agreed that VR simulations were like real-life patient encounters. Seventy-five percent (n = 18) felt that VR was equally effective to standardized patient (SP) encounters and less effective than bedside teaching (P < 0.001). At 1-month follow-up, 67% of residents (n = 16) agreed or strongly agreed that the VR experience improved how they counseled families in cases of influenza vaccine hesitancy.
Discussion: An immersive VR curriculum at our institution was well-received by learners, and residents rated VR as equally effective as SP encounters. As such, immersive VR may be a promising modality for communication training.
Keywords: Communication; medical education; relational skills; virtual reality.