Use Case: Simulation prepares medical students for board exams

The Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RUSOM) wanted to give third-year DO students additional practice to prepare for the COMLEX-USA Level 2-Performance Evaluation (Level 2-PE)—a patient-presentation-based examination in the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners’ three-level medical licensing examination series for osteopathic physicians. RUSOM chose Kognito’s Interpersonal Communication Skills virtual simulation suite as their training solution. You can download the full use case here, or keep reading for a brief summary. 

How virtual patients helped students prepare for standardized patient encounters 

Typically completed by RUSOM’s third-year students during Clerkship training, the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE assesses fundamental clinical skills using standardized patient encounters. Standardized patients provide an opportunity to safely practice relationship-centered communication techniques, but some students benefit from additional practice before being put into this high-pressure examination.  

The Interpersonal Communications Skills virtual simulation suite prepared students through: 

  • Didactic content 
  • Three practice role-play simulations 
  • A virtual coach who provides personalized, performance-based feedback 
  • A challenge role-play with quantitative assessment and reporting 

 Through the simulated role-play conversations, students practiced speaking with a diverse set of patients. Each simulation introduced students to an AI-powered virtual patient with a distinct personality, motivation level, and chief medical complaint. From suspected opioid dependence to mental health struggles, the students gained valuable hands-on practice approaching sensitive topics. 

Virtual patients are ideal for practicing communication techniques because users feel that they are in a safer environment and have less fear of judgment. Research also suggests that users are more open to receiving feedback from a synthetic agent (the virtual coach) than from a human being. 


Results: Students gained confidence in effective provider-patient communication strategies 

Students were required to score a 70 on a scale of 100 in the simulation before continuing into the additional standardized patient encounter practice. The average simulation score was 80.9, well over the requirement. This prepared students for their assessed standardized patient encounters on the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE, which RUSOM students have achieved a 97% pass rate on during the last two academic school years. 

Students took a survey pre- and post-simulation to assess its effectiveness. The following highlights are from those survey results. 

Students gained empathy skills. 

After completing the simulation, students were more prepared to avoid being judgmental or critical when communicating with patients. They were also more prepared to recognize patients’ concerns and reflect them back, a key empathy skill. 

Students were more equipped to effectively navigate challenging conversations. 

By using open-ended questions in addressing motivation to change, healthcare providers can effectively navigate challenging conversations. Following the simulation, students improved their level of preparedness to use this technique by 30%. 

You can see more detailed results by downloading the full use case here 

Students strengthened confidence in using motivational interviewing, an evidence-based communication technique. 

Motivational interviewing helps people become motivated to change the behaviors that are preventing them from making healthier choices. This technique is primarily based on the provider’s ability to demonstrate empathy, open-mindedness, and attentiveness to the patient, all while providing guidance in a non-judgemental way. Students improved confidence in each of these areas, showing that they are more prepared to use this transformational method. 

About the simulation 

The Interpersonal Communication Skills suite prepares medical students and professionals to effectively lead patient encounters. Learners enter into a simulated patient encounter where they practice using relationship-centered communication techniques to motivate positive patient behavior change and achieve their clinical objectives in a variety of clinical contexts. Learn more about this engaging learning experience here. 

Download the use case  

Learn more about Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, and their successful use of simulation to prepare students for standardized patient encounters. Access the use case here. 

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