Practice for the Practice of Medicine

Computer simulation has countless applications. Examples include aviation, engineering, and weather prediction. However, the field of medicine is far behind these other professions when it comes to simulation.

A pilot not only learns how to fly on a simulator, but he also maintains his proficiency with regular visits to the simulated cockpit. On the contrary, a surgeon may have never used a simulator prior to operating on a patient – even when given the opportunity. In fact, only a small percentage of medical schools are using computer simulation to create scenarios for conditions as common as a heart attack. The culture in medicine has failed to adopt the “try it before you buy it” philosophy that is commonplace in many other professions.

Since minimally invasive surgery already uses video technology, computer simulation is a natural fit. Multiple systems are commercially available, and a growing number of hospitals are implementing them into their programs. Goals include the following:

  • Training of new physicians
  • Testing proficiency of new and established surgeons
  • “Refresher” opportunity when surgeon returns from vacation
  • “Alternative experience” for low volume surgeons
  • Possible incorporation into the surgeon credentialing process

The benefit of simulators for both the novice and the seasoned surgeon is immense. A dry run before surgery tends to keep my brow dry during surgery.