Newswise — A new study presented at the 2008 ASA Annual Meeting in Orlando shows that high-fidelity simulation further enhances the experience and training anesthesiology residents gain during their residencies.

Christine S. Park, M.D., and her research group from the department of anesthesiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago studied 21 first-year anesthesia residents as they were tested on simulation scenarios during their first six weeks of training.

"By undergoing simulation-based training, novice residents improved competence in safe practice earlier than that which was achieved by clinical exposure alone," said Dr. Park. "Specific simulation training in scenarios when low oxygen and low blood pressure occurred resulted in significantly enhanced scores compared to non-simulation training."

Dr. Park stressed the importance of this phase of the resident's training, when he or she transitions from a period of intense supervision to semi-independent function. Currently, there is no gold standard among anesthesiology residency programs to train or assess competencies at this time, she said.

The widespread, more traditional approach to medical training uses an apprenticeship model in which the classic slogan is "see one, do one, teach one." But because of the non-uniform nature of real-world clinical exposure, novice trainees naturally will experience gaps in their experience.

According to Dr. Park, simulation is a safe and reliable teaching tool that can be used in conjunction with clinical experience that accelerates and solidifies learning without having to rely on accumulation of real experiences. Simulation training also has a good track record.

"Simulation is a technology with a history of proven value in other high-hazard industries, such as aviation," said Dr. Park. "Although real experiences have the unique ability to impact learners for a lifetime, it is neither practical nor cost-effective, and it may be outright dangerous to use real experiences as the mainstay of education in high-hazard fields of study."

Although few would argue that simulation should or will ever take the place of real-world experience, there are, said Dr. Park, unique advantages to simulation training.

"High-fidelity simulation can closely replicate realistic events, allowing for the kind of 'on-the-job' experiential learning that works best for adult learning. And finally, simulation allows for repetitive practice and videotaped debriefing of scenarios, which is crucial to the process of first observing, then correcting clinical behaviors."

Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 43,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.

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American Society of Anesthesiologists 2008 Annual Meeting