WBUR News: In Simulation Era, Your Doc’s First Try At A Procedure Should Not Be On You
Most doctors never forget the paralyzing terror of their first invasive procedure.
Dr. Charles Pozner, of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recalls the first time he placed a central line, which involves sticking an eight-inch-long needle into a patient’s jugular vein to place an intravenous line. He had never even seen it done before, but a chief resident offered him the opportunity after a long day working together.
“When I was a medical student, the last thing you wanted to say when someone offered a procedure to you was ‘no.’ You wanted to learn, to be part of the team,” Pozner told me. The chief resident walked him through it without mishap, but “it was an unsafe thing for the patient, and an unsafe thing for me, because I was potentially harming the patient,” he said.
Twenty years later, in 2013, I went through a similar process. I watched a colleague place a central line during my first week as an intern. A couple of days later, I placed my first one, as my senior resident supervised. Thankfully, everything went fine. But that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with the idea of wielding eight-inch-long needles after only watching someone do a procedure once.
“See one, do one, teach one” is the ancient medical adage for this: that after doctors in training have seen one procedure or operation, they’re qualified to do the next one. It has been the model for teaching physicians for generations.
But in the age of robotic surgery and simulation medicine, is this concept really acceptable anymore? The short answer is no. Clearly, doctors in training should practice on computers and simulated patients, not real ones. Particularly when, according to a study out this week, medical errors are the No. 3 cause of death nationwide.
The longer answer is more complicated. No one openly defends the concept in medical journals — in fact, experts talk about “see one, practice many, do one.” But the “see one, do one, teach one” culture still persists in hospitals around the country, and it remains routine for physicians in training to practice their first procedure on real patients. (As a patient, what can you do about it? See the tips below.)
“Would you fly on an airplane if they say, ‘We’ll drop the price of our tickets but our pilots will opt out of flight simulation?’” – Dr. Antonio Gargiulo
But that is changing, as more hospitals and medical schools invest in high-tech simulation centers like the $12 million center unveiled by Boston Children’s Hospital this week. Dr. Pozner, who is medical director of the Brigham’s STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation, says that in time, medical simulation will mean the death of “see one, do one, teach one.”
The Pilot Analogy
Consider pilots. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who remarkably landed his plane on the Hudson River, is often mentioned in the medical literature on simulation, as are his hundreds of hours practicing simulated emergencies. If Dr. Atul Gawande famously brought the pilot’s checklist to surgery, simulation proponents think more pilot-style simulation should be brought to medicine. “It’s called procedural memory,” Dr. Pozner said.
And studies show that simulation works in medicine. One small study trained doctors in robotic surgery, showing that they could reach expert level proficiency by the time they operated on their first real patient. “The main advantage of this tool is you can get technically perfect before you even touch a patient,” said Dr. Antonio Gargiulo, medical director of the Center for Robotic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Lance Baily, BA, EMT-B, is the Founder & CEO of HealthySimulation.com, which he started while serving as the Director of the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas back in 2010. Lance is also the Founder and current Chairman of the Board of SimGHOSTS.org, the world’s only non-profit organization dedicated to supporting professionals operating healthcare simulation technologies. His new co-edited Book: “Comprehensive Healthcare Simulation: Operations, Technology, and Innovative Practice” is available now. Lance’s background includes serving as a Simulation Technology Specialist for the LA Community College District, EMS fire fighting, Hollywood movie production, rescue diving, and global travel. He lives with his wife Abigail in Las Vegas, Nevada.