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Upskilling student doctors on gambling harm through real-patients in SBME

Gambling harm is a growing public health concern affecting individuals, families, and communities across the world. Given their current and future potential roles within healthcare teams, it's essential for medical students to be well-informed about, know how to identify, and be confident in providing treatment and support to patients who may be suffering from gambling harm. This is why our charity recently hosted a medical education course on gambling harm for third-year medical students, which used a simulation-based format with individuals with lived experience acting as real patients.

The course was designed to provide medical students with an immersive and interactive learning experience that would help them better understand the complexities of gambling harm and the impact it has on individuals, families, and communities. By using a simulation-based format, the course aimed to create a realistic and engaging learning environment that would help medical students to develop their skills and knowledge in a practical and hands-on way.

The course was designed by a team of experts on gambling harm and medical education, who provided an overview of the latest research in gambling harm. This was followed by a series of interactive simulations, in which individuals with lived experience acted as real patients and shared their personal stories and experiences with the medical students.

The medical students were first tasked with empathetically and sensitively gathering a history from a patient presenting with a symptom that may seemingly be unrelated to gambling harm. This was then followed by a more thorough assessment of other gambling harms as well as an evaluation of the risks to the patient and others. Lastly, the student doctors worked together to provide support and resources to the patients. Through these simulations, the medical students were able to see first-hand the impact that gambling harm can have on an individual's life and the importance of asking direct questions to promote early identification.

Our lived experience delivery was particularly impactful for the medical students, as it provided an authentic perspective on the challenges and complexities of gambling harm. Individuals with lived experience shared their stories and provided insight into what it's like to live with gambling harm either from their own gambling or from another person's gambling, and the impact that it has had on their lives. This helped the medical students to understand the importance of empathy and compassion when working with patients who may be struggling with gambling harm and its stigmas.

The simulation-based format of the medical education course was a great success, with the medical students expressing that they found the experience to be incredibly valuable and impactful. They reported increased confidence to identify and treat patients who may be suffering from gambling harm and appreciated the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills into practice in a safe and controlled environment.

In conclusion, our charity's medical education course on gambling harm was an important step in preparing medical students to tackle this growing public health concern. By using a simulation-based format with individuals with lived experience, the course provided a hands-on and immersive learning experience that helped the medical students to develop their skills, knowledge and attitudes in a practical and impactful way. We believe that this type of education is crucial for healthcare professionals, and we will continue to advocate for its importance in undergraduate education.

What did you like most about the sessions today?

"Having real family members affected by gambling made the session much more helpful as I could understand exactly what to do and not to do in a consultation"
"Before the session, I was not aware of the [gravity] of the effect gambling has and the severity that it has on QOL. + How many people it affects + How it is not just gambling. But also the emotional/behavioural changes"
"The structure of both sessions and how it was split into smaller groups which allowed us not only to learn more effectively but also improve our communication skills on sensitive topics."

What did you dislike most about the sessions today?

"N/A (10/10 session) I would recommend to other med schools"
"There was nothing I would change"
"I wouldn't mind if the session was longer."

Figure 1. Column chart showing student perceptions on helpfulness of sessions towards gambling harm competencies where 1 = not at all helpful and 5 = very helpful. The mean is plotted with 95% confidence intervals.

Figure 2. Column chart showing student perceptions on helpfulness of the lived experience delivery of the sessions where 1 = not at all helpful and 5 = very helpful. The mean is plotted with 95% confidence intervals.

Figure 3. A donut chart showing proportions of student preferences for quantity of gambling harm education at the undergraduate level.

Abstract report

SBME Course Evaluation Abstract
Download PDF • 295KB


"Three years ago, I was a 4th Year Medical Student at Imperial College London realising that:

  • I had experienced gambling harm all my life

  • Gambling harm is one of the most significant modifiable risk factors for health

  • That the issue is extraordinarily neglected relative to other similar issues

It bothered me that I had never encountered gambling harm teaching in my medical education and that this would be the norm across undergraduate teaching domestically and internationally. (Now that I'm practising medicine as an FY1 doctor, I come across gambling harm regularly but often only because I have asked.)

Therefore, in October 2019, I started my efforts to change this. Since then, we’ve created resources with medical education providers with a vast reach, namely, Geeky Medics and Osmosis – Medical Education.

We’ve now gone a step further in making a decisive impact in gambling harm medical education through a successful course designed and delivered by individuals with lived experience course to medical students directly.

We're extremely pleased with the feedback that we have received and the impact that this course will have on the students, their loved ones, and patients.

We look forward to and strive to see gambling harm being considered and tackled alongside alcohol misuse, tobacco use, and drug misuse in medical education and healthcare practice."

Dr Kishan Patel

Chair of the Board of Trustees at Gambling Harm UK


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