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The current study compared the CathSim virtual reality simulator with simulated limbs for phlebotomy training. In the first experiment, medical students completed two 1-hour training sessions using 1 of the 2 methods. Afterward, the students' performance was assessed with both simulated limbs and genuine patients. The results showed that students trained with the simulated limbs achieved higher scores on both the posttest and the field test with actual patients than those trained on the CathSim system. In the second study, graduate students practiced with the CathSim system for 5 hours. The results showed a significant improvement in scores from pretest to posttest for these students. However, even after extended practice, their final scores did not differ from those of the medical students in the first experiment. Critical differences in design characteristics between the 2 systems may explain these findings. Although the authors observed a clear advantage for simulated limbs over the CathSim system, neither system faithfully represents all of steps needed to perform the procedure. Thus, training decisions may require that the unique advantages afforded by each system be considered.
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