Evaluation of the virtual mentor cataract training program

Ophthalmology. 2010 Feb;117(2):253-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2009.07.009. Epub 2009 Dec 6.


Objective: Evaluate the effectiveness of an interactive cognitive computer simulation for teaching the hydrodissection portion of cataract surgery compared with standard teaching and to assess the attitudes of residents about the teaching tools and their perceived confidence in the knowledge gained after using the tools.

Design: Case-control study.

Participants and controls: Residents at academic institutions.

Methods: Prospective, multicenter, single-masked, controlled trial was performed in 7 academic departments of ophthalmology (Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, University of Iowa, Emory University, University of Cincinnati, University of Pennsylvania/Scheie Eye Institute, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University/Wills Eye Institute, and the Aravind Eye Institute). All residents from these centers were asked to participate and were randomized into 2 groups. Group A (n = 30) served as the control and received traditional teaching materials; group B (n = 38) received a digital video disc of the Virtual Mentor program. This program is an interactive cognitive simulation, specifically designed to separate cognitive aspects (such as decision making and error recognition) from the motor aspects. Both groups took online anonymous pretests (n = 68) and posttests (n = 58), and answered satisfaction questionnaires (n = 53). Wilcoxon tests were completed to compare pretest and posttest scores between groups. Analysis of variance was performed to assess differences in mean scores between groups.

Main outcome measures: Scores on pretests, posttests, and satisfaction questionnaires.

Results: There was no difference in the pretest scores between the 2 groups (P = 0.62). However, group B (Virtual Mentor [VM]) scored significantly higher on the posttest (P = 0.01). Mean difference between pretest and posttest scores were significantly better in the VM group than in the traditional learning group (P = 0.04). Questionnaire revealed that the VM program was "more fun" to use (24.1% vs 4.2%) and residents were more likely to use this type of program again compared with the likelihood of using the traditional tools (58.6% vs 4.2%).

Conclusions: The VM, a cognitive computer simulation, augmented teaching of the hydrodissection step of phacoemulsification surgery compared with traditional teaching alone. The program was more enjoyable and more likely to be used repetitively by ophthalmology residents.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Mentors*
  • Ophthalmology / education*
  • Phacoemulsification / education*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • User-Computer Interface*