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First-year Surgery resident Emily Keung, MD, hasn’t placed a central line or performed a bronchoscopy yet, but she is prepared to do so, thanks to extensive training at the STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation.
Keung and her first-year colleagues in Surgery attend bi-weekly “boot camp” sessions to practice suturing, knot-tying, placing chest tubes and central lines and performing bronchoscopies, among other skills. Attending physicians and chief and senior residents teach the sessions.
“I think that the first time you do any procedure, you always will be a little nervous,” said Keung, a graduate of Harvard Medical School. “But having the opportunity to go through a simulation first with someone explaining it to you makes you more comfortable.”
STRATUS, which is open to every group and specialty, is growing, and so are the opportunities for training. When the final phase of construction is complete, the center will encompass 11,000 square feet spread over two stories in the Neville House. That means additional equipment, such as a brand new OR with a simulator that enables anesthesiologists to practice using real gases. Another room features simulators for performing fundamental laparoscopic and arthroscopic surgery. Haptic technology gives users a realistic sense of touch so they feel pressure, resistance and other sensations when performing procedures.
Medical Director Chuck Pozner, MD, likens the operational model of the center to that of a recording studio. “We provide the equipment and technical support, and departments and other groups provide their own content experts and students,” he said.
But it’s not simply the equipment that makes STRATUS an internationally known center; it’s the educational curricula that drive the training and skill-building. “You really need an infrastructure to support learning,” Pozner said.
Surgery, for example, will rotate all residents through STRATUS this fall. Doug Smink, MD, MPH, aims to have a group of surgery residents attend a two-hour session every week. “Their fellow residents will cover for them, so this is a time when they can just focus on learning without distraction,” said Smink, the associate medical director of STRATUS and the associate program director for the Surgical Residency Program. “It’s extremely important for patient safety that our interns and residents have hands-on practice in addition to observing others performing procedures.”
The technical team at STRATUS is adept at helping departments come up with strategies to simulate specific events or situations. “Whatever your idea is, we can try and find a way to bring it to life in the simulator,” Smink said. “We want everyone to use STRATUS as much as possible.”