Background: Neurosurgical trainees regularly encounter critical care situations. Traditionally, education was accomplished through lecture and experience. Increasingly, human patient simulators (HPS) are employed, allowing trainees to sharpen skills in a safe and realistic environment. We describe our experience using HPS in neurosurgical training.
Methods: We developed a critical care training program for residents and medical students using HPS. We used a hi-fidelity, lifelike Human Patient Simulator™ (HPS™) produced by Medical Education Technologies, Inc.™ to simulate realistic scenarios for trainee education. Topics included spinal shock, closed head injury, and cerebral vasospasm. A three-way evaluation model was employed to test validity, including pre- and post-exercise testing, survey feedback, and videotaped replay. The simulation exercises were conducted by a neuro-critical care attending, a senior neurosurgical resident, and a HPS technician.
Results: We currently have 29 participants. On a 20-point critical care multiple-choice exam for these participants, average improvement has been 4.5 points or 25%. In subgroup analysis, average improvement was 4.75 points (24%) amongst neurosurgery residents, 3.07 points (18%) amongst neurology residents, 7 points (38%) amongst general surgery residents, and 7 points (38%) amongst senior medical students. Post-exercise evaluations were overwhelmingly positive.
Conclusions: Neurosurgical critical care education is important for safe and effective care for patients. Clinical experience and didactic lectures help trainees obtain a solid knowledge base, but do not provide the benefit for learning in a fail-safe environment. Through the use of HPS, we have enhanced the critical care education of our trainees.