Virtual Reality Role In Procedural Training

While every simulator differs, in theory the primary advantage that virtual reality simulation of medical procedures has over inanimate synthetic models is its ability to track and log everything the user is doing during the task and provide useful feedback. This creates a safe and truly learner-centered environment that is comfortable and efficient, while not requiring the presence of mentor supervision. The option of adding mentored supervision, of course, is always possible and often desirable to enhance the learning experience (Table 1).

With current technology, patient-specific models can be imported into the simulation environment, allowing for the practice of specific cases prior to performing them in real life (14).

Berkley et al. (15) has begun work on this for urological applications with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Many simulators have curricula built into their software, which train the cognitive aspects of the procedure as well as case scenarios and basic skills training modules. The user can focus on those subtasks, which cause the most difficulty and the proctor and the student can track progress over time and when the trainee reaches criterion levels set by experts on the simulator, they could then be given permission to "practice on patients" under supervision.

The use of virtual reality simulators to test new instruments is also a potential advantage for industry to develop cutting edge technology and train their sales staff.

In the United Kingdom, live animal operations are banned under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, and there is some pressure in the United States to follow suit. While the current line of thinking in the United States is that the advantages of live animal surgery in training surgical skills seem to outweigh the pitfalls, it is always of great benefit to find alternatives to such a practice.

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