Video Games as Medical Education (Really!)
A Revolution in Education
The EMS field is constantly changing. Naturally, the way first responders learn should change as well. Students will always need instructors and live simulations. However, as technology continues to evolve instructors are finding video games can be a great educational tool in and out of the classroom. Check out some ways that video games are being used for medical education.
There are many types of virtual simulators available for first responders. Some games teach individuals how to respond to terrorist threats, others show how to respond to a hazmat situation. Others teach problem-solving in the ER.
AMA Wire quoted Suraiya Rahman, MD, assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in a talk she gave. She described the benefits of video games as learning tools, saying, “You can create a game to mimic any kind of environment—the academic medical center, the community medical center, the VA center.” She explains that millennials and young students already play games in a massively multiplayer online environment. In these chaotic situations, players strategize how best to react to challenges.
By playing this style of gaming in a classroom, students learn how to adapt game strategizing for real-life situations. This way when a student is in a live simulation they can apply what they have learned in a real-life situation.
Students Can Learn on Their Own Time
Video games offer a standardized education and the best part is that not everyone needs to be in the classroom at the same time. EMS1 tested a game and stated that “the feedback is immediate, there is no need for instructors, as all rules are contained within the game.” So students learned immediately from their successes or failures in a particular situation.
Increases Knowledge Retention
One of the best ways to learn is through repetition. This allows students to retain the information better because they are seeing and hearing it over and over again. In their article, AAMC spoke with B. Price Kerfoot, MD, EdM, an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kerfoot says, “that style of learning lends itself well to games…[they] embody a closed-loop system.” That system makes it much easier for students to remember the information they have learned while playing the game.
This also gives medical students a competitive spin on education which they enjoy. It encourages students and medical residents to play the games more often. By incorporating education into their everyday lives students see the information on a more regular basis. The more time they spend with the material, the better they retain it.
Drawbacks of Video Games
Video games are not without their limitations. They are, after all, only games. One issue that instructors find is that students disassociate with the people that need help in the games. So while players learn what logically needs to be done in an emergency situation, they do not learn how to respond emotionally. This could cause an issue because first responders need empathy when working with patients facing trauma.
Another risk some instructors fear is that games pose a distraction in the classroom and in the field. More research needs to be done to fully understand how much video games can benefit medical students.
On the upside, 43% of Stanford incoming medical interns claim that they prefer learning through virtual simulations and games. No one will argue that teachers and live simulations are critical to the success of a student’s education. But, as technology continues to improve, instructors could find that this tool infinitely useful.