NSCC incorporates virtual reality into surg tech program
North Shore Community College students learning to become surgical technologists now have a cool new tool to use - PeriopSim, an immersive simulation learning tool designed to bridge the gap between class and the Operating Room (OR). PeriopSim uses virtual reality headsets which allow students to learn in a simulated operating room, where they can practice identifying surgical instruments, passing them to a surgeon and learning the steps of several different surgical procedures.
Surgical Technologists are allied health professionals and an integral part of the medical team providing surgical care to patients.
“Advances in technology have made surgical simulation a powerful teaching tool, and there are many options that can apply to surgical technology,” said Jennifer Forte, Surgical Technology program coordinator and NSCC alumna. “This interactive learning program allows our students to learn procedures and anticipate the surgeon and instrumentation before going into the OR.”
PeriopSim uses video of real surgeries and voice prompts, users are guided through a surgery and prompted to use the correct instrument at every step. It uses gamification techniques such as scoring and timed challenges to motivate learners to practice and hone their skills, rehearse procedures and achieve a higher score. PeriopSim also teaches anticipation, rewarding learners who anticipate the next step and allows them to get immediate feedback. The technology also enables instructors to quickly identify knowledge gaps, preventing issues from becoming “bad habits.”
Research shows that PeriopSim performs 6x faster and is more effective than traditional methods. For instance, a one-hour procedure only takes 10 minutes in the simulation. Students can do multiple full procedure simulations across several different specialties as many times as they want with immediate feedback.
Through practicing the steps of a procedure, anticipating the surgeon and Sterile Field, Sharps Safety, Sterile Technique, Passing Techniques and Instrumentation, students can reduce stress and gain confidence before going into the clinical setting, Forte noted.
Forte explained, “Obtaining this equipment is a response to industry needs. The OR is getting much more technical and it is getting harder for us to prepare students with simulation in the lab setting due to equipment and staffing needs. The VR allows students to "scrub" several different procedures over and over until they master each one. It is literally an OR, all the instruments, all the equipment, a surgeon and a patient in the VR headset.
“In the traditional lab setting, students would have to wait while each student went one at a time with me simulating the surgeon. Students would be lucky to simulate one procedure a week. With the VR, five students at a time can simulate dozens of different procedures. It does not replace the need for traditional lab simulation but does enhance it greatly,” Forte noted.
“I was transported into an OR room that was as real to me as if I was scrubbing in a real surgical procedure. I had to pick up instruments in the correct orientation, pass them safely to the surgeon, respond in a reasonable amount of time and anticipate what the next request would be. If I dropped an instrument or handed the wrong item, points would be deducted from my score. I was given visual clues by the surgeon’s hands turning red, yellow or green, and I could see an actual surgical procedure in real time on the monitor above the surgical table just like boom monitors in an OR,” said A.J. Nwokeji, Surgical Technology student.
NSCC’s Surgical Technology Associate in Applied Science degree is a fully accredited program that combines lectures, laboratory activities, simulation, and operating room experience. Upon completion of this 15-month hybrid program, graduates will be eligible to take the national certification examination, which is required in Massachusetts for employment as a surgical technologist. NSCC’s Surgical Technology Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs upon the recommendation of the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. For more information see: Surgical Technology.