Implementation of full patient simulation training in surgical residency

Author Department


Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



PURPOSE: Simulated patient care has gained acceptance as a medical education tool but is underused in surgical training. To improve resident clinical management in critical situations relevant to the surgical patient, high-fidelity full patient simulation training was instituted at Baystate Medical Center in 2005 and developed during successive years. We define surgical patient simulation as clinical management performed in a high fidelity environment using a manikin simulator. This technique is intended to be specifically modeled experiential learning related to the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are fundamental to patient care. We report 3 academic years' use of a patient simulation curriculum. METHODS: Learners were PGY 1-3 residents; 26 simulated patient care experiences were developed based on (1) designation as a critical management problem that would otherwise be difficult to practice, (2) ability to represent the specific problem in simulation, (3) relevance to the American Board of Surgery (ABS) certifying examination, and/or (4) relevance to institutional quality or morbidity and mortality reports. Although training started in 2005, data are drawn from the period of systematic and mandatory training spanning from July 2006 to June 2009. Training occurred during 1-hour sessions using a computer-driven manikin simulator (METI, Sarasota, Florida). Educational content was provided either before or during presimulation briefing sessions. Scenario areas included shock states, trauma and critical care case management, preoperative processes, and postoperative conditions and complications. All sessions were followed by facilitated debriefing. Likert scale-based multi-item assessments of core competency in medical knowledge, patient care, diagnosis, management, communication, and professionalism were used to generate a performance score for each resident for each simulation (percentage of best possible score). Performance was compared across PGYs by repeated-measures analysis of variance and Wilcoxon rank sum tests. RESULTS: Residents participated in 4.5 ± 1.4 sessions per academic year. Compliance with scheduled training was 88%, 90%, and 99% over successive years. Performance data were available for 39 PGY1, 2, and 3 residents. Ten individual residents could be followed between PGY1 and PGY2. For these individuals, improvement in mean performance was detected for the PGY2 (81% ± 5% vs 86% ± 4%; p < 0.01). Performance improvement was also detected for 4 individual residents who could be followed during all 3 years (82% ± 4%, 86% ± 2%, and 91% ± 1%, respectively, p < 0.005). Internal consistency for multi-item assessments was high (Cronbach's alpha = 0.80). Of note, 8 of 39 residents had performance scores >2 standard deviations below mean for the PGY level and 5 of these had deficiencies in clinical performance noted by other evaluation methods. CONCLUSIONS: Patient simulation training was implemented successfully with good compliance in this medium-sized surgical residency training program, but clear challenges were encountered with issues related to the number and range of experiences available per resident, competition with other educational activities, and fidelity and realism. Initial experience suggests that the associated assessment methods can detect predictable improvements in patient management skills across successive residency years, as well as potentially deficient management. Additional work is required to determine the educational effect of this training on resident clinical competency. Copyright © 2010 Association of Program Directors in Surgery. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication ISSN