Using Patient Simulators to Explore Community Health Issues

Knology studied a five-year educational program that used a patient simulator named iStan to increase students’ interest in health sciences and health careers.

by Christina Shane-SimpsonJohn FraserSusan HannahKin Kong
Jun 30, 2021

With funding from a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award, the Museum of Science and Industry developed MedLab, a suite of museum programs and online products that provide interactive STEM learning experiences for Chicago-area middle and high school students.

Knology evaluated the impacts of the five-year educational program, which aimed to use in-person and online curricula including a humanoid patient simulator - named iStan - to increase interest in health sciences and health-related careers among the students. The initiative was also designed to increase understanding of common health issues. The project team selected a number of health topics that were priority concerns in the Chicago communities as focus areas for the curricula. These conditions were heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.

To evaluate these resources, we conducted focus groups with health professionals and surveys with teachers in the Chicago Public School system. We developed multiple surveys that were distributed to students in the school system that asked questions about topics such as their familiarity with health topics, how they felt about humanoid simulators, norms for health and wellness, and their interest in health science careers. We also interviewed students who participated in the MedLab experience after they completed the program.

Key Findings

The findings from the study indicated that the program was successful in meeting its goals. Students came away with a greater understanding of and interest in a range of health and science careers, as well as how the health conditions discussed in the curricula impact community and individual health.

Students felt empowered and had more of a stake in pushing for positive change in the personal, family, and community health outcomes. We also saw changes in students’ behaviors. Specifically, they were more interested in participating in activities that directly contributed to improving community health issues.

While the MedLab program ended in 2017, the findings from the evaluation demonstrate the value of simulation tools like iStan for teaching students about health science topics and cultivating their interest in health science careers. This is particularly useful for students who live in resource poor communities who may not have had this kind of opportunity in their classrooms. Furthermore, tying the learning taking place using these tools to the lived experiences of the students can help them become more engaged citizens in their communities and beyond.

About This Project

MedLab was part of SIMLAB: Using Patient Simulation for Student Exploration of Community Health Issues, an education development and implementation program funded through a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award #1 R25 RR026013-01A1, awarded to the Museum of Science and Industry.

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