- There is increasing evidence that educating trainee surgeons by simulation is preferable to traditional operating-room training methods with actual patients. Apart from reducing costs and risks to patients, training by simulation can provide some unique benefits, such as greater control over the training procedure and more easily defined metrics for assessing proficiency.
- Virtual reality (VR) simulators are now playing an increasing role in surgical training. However, currently available VR simulators lack the fidelity to teach trainees past the novice-to-intermediate skills level. Recent technological developments in other industries using simulation, such as the games and entertainment and aviation industries, suggest that the next generation of VR simulators should be suitable for training, maintenance and certification of advanced surgical skills.
- To be effective as an advanced surgical training and assessment tool, VR simulation needs to provide adequate and relevant levels of physical realism, case complexity and performance assessment. Proper validation of VR simulators and an increased appreciation of their value by the medical profession are crucial for them to be accepted into surgical training curricula.
The popular board game ‘Operation’ has been a family favourite for years but it seems advances in gaming technology may mean its full potential will be realised in the surgical training sector. Advances here have come off the back of a rapidly developing gaming industry continually striving to provide innovative and realistic gaming designs. The US Military have been the first to use this technology in a practical career-driven sense and now articles such as this one are citing randomised controlled trials demonstrating effectiveness.
The question that should now be asked is what is the potential for such a system of training to detract from the current standard of surgical training. Already new surgical consultants are inexperienced in older more classical surgical operations such as, for example, abdominal laporoscopic (‘key-hole’) surgery that needs to be converted to an ‘open’ operation. Predictions are that carotid endarterectomy surgery will soon only be performed endovascularly (through the blood vessels) as new surgical trainees proficeint in this method lack the skills to perform an open operation. What potential loss of ability could a system such as this introduce to the domain of surgical training.