An experiment from the University of Texas at Galveston compared robotic surgical skills of three groups: high school students who played two hours a day of video games, college students who played four hours a day, and, finally, actual surgical residents. The results indicate that moderate video gaming is predictive of superior robotic surgical skills.
Specifically, the UTMB study measured participants' competency on more than 20 different skill parameters and 32 different teaching steps on the robotic surgery simulator – a training tool that resembles a video game booth complete with dual-hand-operated controllers a video monitor that displays real-time surgical movements. As a whole, the nine tenth graders participating in the study performed the best, followed by nine students from Texas A&M University and lastly the 11 UTMB residents; the mean age of each group was 16, 21 and 31 respectively.It's a small study but several interesting issues are raised.
- Given the concerns about surgical resident training in the era of work hour reform, one must wonder why OR time deficits and case log deficiencies are not being offset to some extent with mandatory surgical simulation blocks. "Get thee to the simulator" ought to be the motto of modern resident programs.
- The technique of surgery, as ever, is an eminently teachable skill. For most residents, that is. Of course you will always have hacks who are unredeemable. But for the most part we aren't trying to teach thousands of young people every year how to play the entire oeuvre of Chopin on piano or how to be Olympic level gymnasts. Talent is nice but most surgical training programs would agree that they could teach a monkey how to remove an appendix safely, if not always elegantly.
- That there are college students playing Xbox four hours a day goes a long way in explaining why we are a third world country in math and science educational rankings.