Transformative Learning: Reflections on Jenny Rudolph’s Plenary Discussion, Part I

by Valerie Fulmer

Many medical education institutions continue to experience a dwindling of funds concurrently with an injunction for continued research. It was therefore quite timely when Dr. Jenny Rudolph provided the ASPE membership with a powerful reminder during the opening plenary speech at the 2011 Nashville Conference. Standardized Patient Educators’ Unique Contribution to Transformative Learning: an Outsider’s View was a heartening reminder that what we do every day in the world of Standardized and Simulated learning can make for strong, publishable research. Dr. Rudolph, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School Center for Medical Simulation postulated that we, as SP Educators, have a multi-faceted perspective that is rarely seen in research. SP educators are uniquely positioned to impact the research world by showcasing the work we do that captures the complexity of multiple perspectives.

SP methodology has the advantage of multiple perspectives; Subjective knowledge obtained through self reflective, 1st person work, in combination with a collaborative perspective in which all participants learn about the impact of their own attempts (2nd person research). The addition then of 3rd person (objective) data regarding change validated by checklists, combines to form a perspective triad with particularly high outcome validity.
Dr. Rudolph commented in closing that the “objectivity” of conventional 3rd person research, despite our best desires, is hard to achieve.  Diversified research that makes use of a multi-faceted approach is unique and can lead to truly transformational data.
In digging through the SP list-serve archives for conversations that might be helpful for the membership to re-read the subject of this chain jumped out as quite complimentary to Dr. Rudolph’s plenary message:

Subject: [SP-Trainer] 2009 Re: Which medical journals are interested in publishing about SPs

Dear Listserv,
…. We have been working with SPs for nearly 15 years now and have done some research, in particular, about the emotional impact on SPs. We haven’t had any luck publishing so far – at least with the major medical education journals, so I was wondering if anyone has a favorite journal they send their research to?
— [Listserv Member]

Hello [Listserv Member],
Here is some journals you might try.  All are indexed in Medline.  It’s also ok to write the editor beforehand and ask them if they’d likely be interested in the topic of your research.  A “no” will save you a lot of time and grief.

Simulation in Healthcare is the Journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.  They’re interested in research on all different types of simulation, from standardized patients to mannequins.  So this might be a most appropriate venue for research about SPs — rather than research using SPs to answer questions about other matters, which might fit in a general medical education journal.

Teaching and Learning in Medicine and Medical Education Online also tend to be quite friendly to SP related research.

The following medical education journals are perhaps less interested in research about SPs per se, and more interested in research that uses SPs as a tool to answer important questions related to medical education:

Medical Education – interested primarily in research that is theoretically based – ie has an explicit conceptual framework – and moves the field forward in a substantive way.
International perspective
Advances in Health Sciences Education – similar to Medical Education, tends to fairly rigorous research.

Academic Medicine – interested mostly in institutional issues and institutional level research, but does publish some basic research especially in the annual RIME supplement; Tends to focus on North American issues.

Medical Teacher – tends to practical, applied solutions to educational problems or challenges.

Consider also presenting your work at ASPE or SSH, as a poster or paper presentation.  I often get very good feedback from the audience, very helpful in then converting the presentation into a paper.
Good luck!

Rachel Yudkowsky, MD, MHPE
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

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