Helping Train Future Cardiac Surgeons Through Simulation

Student Researcher:
Sean Wallace

Supervisor / Principle Investigator:
Dr. Bin Zheng

MD Class of 2020


Background: It takes years of dedicated practice to learn the skills necessary to become a cardiac surgeon. Traditionally, teaching has followed the apprenticeship model, where the learner does all or part of a procedure under the guidance of a senior surgeon. However, due to recent resident work hour restrictions and patient safety concerns, adjuncts to traditional training are needed. Simulation is a suitable training modality as it allows for repetitive goal-directed practice of basic skills in a risk-free environment. The use of simulation as an adjunct to traditional training may help bridge the gaps between the hours needed to master a skill, patient safety and work hour limitations.

Objective: To create and validate a bench-top cardiac skills simulator for training fundamental skills necessary to become a cardiac surgeon.

Methods: There are three steps to this project. First, we identify skills that are fundamental to cardiac surgery through structured interview of five surgeons. Second, we build a simulator that replicates reality and allows repetitive practice of the skills. Third, we validate our simulator by asking four groups with different levels of cardiac surgical skill (inexperienced, junior, senior, and expert surgeon) to perform the simulated tasks, grading their performance.

Results: We expect a marked difference in performance between groups on the simulated tasks. This difference should be in accordance with the skill level of each group. The difference in performance based on the participants’ skill level will help validate that our simulator is a close representation to the real-life task.

Conclusions: The creation of a valid cardiac skills simulator will provide a valuable tool in the training of the next generation of cardiac surgeons by helping to bridge the gaps between work hour limitations, patient safety and the time needed to master the skills necessary to become a cardiac surgeon.