Tag Archive for: simulation


Error Training: An emerging teaching tool not to be ignored!

To err is human, to cover up is unforgivable, to fail to learn is inexcusable

Sir Liam Donaldson, Former Chief Medical Officer

As a specialist registrar, I recall operating on a large renal tumour along with my mentor Omer Karim (who is now my colleague). As the mobilization was difficult due to neovascularization, he took over and just as the kidney was about to be delivered out, the adrenal vein was avulsed and there was a gush of blood. A Satinsky clamp was placed and to my surprise, Omer asked me to come over and repair the tear, which was successfully done. I remember his wise words even today “Anyone can remove this kidney, what you need to learn is to fix the complications!”

The traditional apprenticeship model of training that exists even today involves the Boss taking over the case whenever there is a complication. This leads to a teaching model wherein the trainee fails to learn on ‘how to get out of the complication’. Indeed, a very wise piece of advice for a young surgeon in training is to work under a ‘not so good’ surgeon for a period of time, as you will then be exposed to many complications (some not mentioned in the books!), learn how to deal with them and try to avoid repeating those same mistakes. The very concept of learning from others’ errors goes into the heart of the very popular meeting held regularly by the Southern Laparoscopic Urology Group (SLUG). The group comprising of highly experienced laparoscopic urologists present their unusual complications and how they were dealt with and what others can learn from that particular complication.

Two recent blogs on bjui.org emphasize the importance of surgical simulation, especially training in the era of EWTD. However, most simulation exercises concentrate on how to perform a proper operation avoiding any errors. Although, this aspect is extremely important, less emphasis has been devoted to developing simulation modules on intra-operative complications and how to deal with them. This is where the concept of Error Training is fast becoming the buzzword among the education psychologists. A well-written article by DaRosa and Pugh on this interesting concept is well worth a read. The authors explore the reasons for the lack of integration of this important aspect into surgical training. There are only a few studies that have looked into the impact of error training on acquisition of skills. A study by Roger et al on the role for error training on surgical technical skill instruction and evaluation found that instruction about common errors, when combined with instruction about the correct performance enhanced the acquisition of the particular surgical skill. Their study suggested a role for the use of errors in surgical technical skill instruction. Similarly, in a study by Brannick et al, who evaluated an error-reduction training program for surgical residents, showed a reduction in the error during surgery. Natalie Bourgeois in her thesis on error training draws the attention for the need to develop error management training (EMT) as opposed to error avoidant training (EAT). EMT is a teaching method that promotes ‘trainee learning’ enabling them to make errors during their simulation exercises. EAT, however, dictates the trainee not to deviate from the prescribed steps and follow the instructions accurately avoiding any errors. Research has now shown that tasks, which involve making deliberate errors during the learning process, may decrease performance during that particular training session, but increases the performance in the ‘transfer environment’. Keith and Frese have shown that errors lead to more exploration during training, increased metacognition, increased emotional control and increased intrinsic motivation, which benefits transfer performance. Thus, there is emerging but limited scientific evidence about integrating error training into the surgical curriculum.

In the future, laparoscopic and robotic simulators should incorporate modules that would expose the trainee to scenarios of intra-operative complications and assess their ability to deal with it. Studies to validate the effectiveness of these modules would be difficult in a patient setting due to obvious ethical considerations. But there is no doubt that this kind of exposure would definitely prepare the trainee’s mind to manage any eventuality. I would end with the quote “First do no Harm. But if you do, have the knowledge to heal the harm”.


Amrith Rao is a Consultant Urological Surgeon at Wexham Park Hospital, Wexham, UK. @urorao


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Article of the week: Reality check: simulators are effective training tools for robotic surgery

Every week the Editor-in-Chief selects the Article of the Week from the current issue of BJUI. The abstract is reproduced below and you can click on the button to read the full article, which is freely available to all readers for at least 30 days from the time of this post.

In addition to the article itself, there is an accompanying editorial written by a prominent member of the urological community. This blog is intended to provoke comment and discussion and we invite you to use the comment tools at the bottom of each post to join the conversation.

If you only have time to read one article this week, it should be this one.

Current status of validation for robotic surgery simulators – a systematic review

Hamid Abboudi, Mohammed S. Khan, Omar Aboumarzouk*, Khurshid A. Guru†, Ben Challacombe, Prokar Dasgupta and Kamran Ahmed

MRC Centre for Transplantation, King’s College London, King’s Health Partners, Department of Urology, Guy’s Hospital, London, *Department of Urology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen, UK, and †Department of Urology, Roswell Park Center for Robotic Surgery, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, USA

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To analyse studies validating the effectiveness of robotic surgery simulators. The MEDLINE®, EMBASE® and PsycINFO® databases were systematically searched until September 2011. References from retrieved articles were reviewed to broaden the search. The simulator name, training tasks, participant level, training duration and evaluation scoring were extracted from each study. We also extracted data on feasibility, validity, cost-effectiveness, reliability and educational impact. We identified 19 studies investigating simulation options in robotic surgery. There are five different robotic surgery simulation platforms available on the market. In all, 11 studies sought opinion and compared performance between two different groups; ‘expert’ and ‘novice’. Experts ranged in experience from 21–2200 robotic cases. The novice groups consisted of participants with no prior experience on a robotic platform and were often medical students or junior doctors. The Mimic dV-Trainer®, ProMIS®, SimSurgery Educational Platform® (SEP) and Intuitive systems have shown face, content and construct validity. The Robotic Surgical SimulatorTM system has only been face and content validated. All of the simulators except SEP have shown educational impact. Feasibility and cost-effectiveness of simulation systems was not evaluated in any trial.Virtual reality simulators were shown to be effective training tools for junior trainees. Simulation training holds the greatest potential to be used as an adjunct to traditional training methods to equip the next generation of robotic surgeons with the skills required to operate safely. However, current simulation models have only been validated in small studies. There is no evidence to suggest one type of simulator provides more effective training than any other. More research is needed to validate simulated environments further and investigate the effectiveness of animal and cadaveric training in robotic surgery.










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Editorial: VR simulators can improve patient safety

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.

Roger Kirby
The Prostate Centre, London W1G 8GT

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