Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Forget the Scalpel, Med Schools Use Robots, Video Games to Train New Doctors

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Forget the Scalpel, Med Schools Use Robots, Video Games to Train New Doctors

Article excerpt

Robots, video games used to train new doctors

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TORONTO - During a medical emergency, every second counts.

What a doctor decides to do or not do, and how quickly, could mean the difference between whether a patient lives or dies.

It's a lesson that has long been taught by Canadian medical schools, but now it's not just coming by way of a professor or a textbook.

Over the past few years, some universities have increasingly been using new technologies, including video games and robots, to teach the next generation of doctors. The tools are aimed at helping students become better doctors and improving patient care.

Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., is one such institution that's training with technology.

"In the old days, (students would) be learning in the hospital or practising on each other," explained Kim Garrison, operations manager at the school of medicine's new clinical simulation centre.

Today, a doctor-in-training most likely will have clocked hours of hands-on training using new technologies before they even set foot inside a hospital.

The teaching clinic, which opened last year, boasts five state-of-the-art pliable plastic mannequins for students to practice everything from properly inserting an IV to learning how to resuscitate someone who goes into cardiac arrest.

The three male and two female mannequins can be programmed to simulate various medical conditions and have everything from fake veins, so students can practice drawing blood, to lungs that mimic breathing, and even eyes that dilate.

The female mannequins come with babies and can undergo normal or breached deliveries.

An instructor in an adjacent room controls the mannequins' physical reactions, like quickening their pulse, depending on the students' actions.

Garrison said these simulation labs have increasingly become the standard of education in medical schools.

"This type of technology enables students to learn at a comfortable rate," she said. "Students learn more quickly because they realize it's an environment where they can practice."

The school also uses a program similar to a Nintendo Wii video gaming console that allows students to hone their budding surgical skills.

These labs look like a typical operating room at any major hospital. A mannequin is on a table hooked up to a machine with a screen that monitors its' heart rate and other vitals.

As the student performs the surgery, they have to follow their progress on the screen, like any operating room doctor would.

Adam Szulewski, a third-year resident at Kingston General Hospital, said there is little margin for error in medicine, so simulation labs help provide students with necessary experience without putting a patient at risk.

"The beauty of simulation is that it's in a safe environment," he said. "No one is being judged and there is not a real person's life at stake. …

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