You wouldn’t expect the pilot of the aeroplane in which you fly to the EAU or AUA meeting to be a novice who was training on the aeroplane that you were being transported in! Similarly, patients undergoing robot-assisted surgery do not expect to be the “guinea pigs” upon which trainee surgeons move up the learning curve of surgical experience. Sometimes, however, they are.
Surgical simulators offer the means for surgeons to gain experience before moving to operating on actual patients. However, the publication from Guy’s and St Thomas’s illustrates how little research has been done yet to confirm that outcomes are improved by such a move.
Patient safety is a “buzz word” at present, especially after the report of Robert Francis QC on the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust disaster. It seems probable that virtual reality (VR) simulators can improve safety, not only by improving technical skills, but also by enhancing non-technical “human factor” responses.
Much work needs to be done to provide the VR training facilities and ensure access to them for all urology trainees. Once they are in place studies will be needed to confirm their value. In a world where doctors and Trusts are facing a tidal wave of litigation there seems little doubt that this is the way ahead.
The Prostate Centre, London W1G 8GT