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Anne-Katrin Hickmann, Andrea Ferrari, Oliver Bozinov, Martin N. Stienen, and Carsten Ostendorp

OBJECTIVE

Restrictions on working time and healthcare expenditures, as well as increasing subspecialization with caseload requirements per surgeon and increased quality-of-care expectations, provide limited opportunities for surgical residents to be trained in the operating room. Yet, surgical training requires goal-oriented and focused practice. As a result, training simulators are increasingly utilized. The authors designed a two-step blended course consisting of a personalized adaptive electronic learning (e-learning) module followed by simulator training. This paper reports on course development and the evaluation by the first participants.

METHODS

Adaptive e-learning was curated by learning engineers based on theoretical information provided by clinicians (subject matter experts). A lumbar spine model for image-guided spinal injections was used for the simulator training. Residents were assigned to the e-learning module first; after its completion, they participated in the simulator training. Performance data were recorded for each participant’s e-learning module, which was necessary to personalize the learning experience to each individual’s knowledge and needs. Simulator training was organized in small groups with a 1-to-4 instructor-to-participant ratio. Structured assessments were undertaken, adapted from the Student Evaluation of Educational Quality.

RESULTS

The adaptive e-learning module was curated, reviewed, and approved within 10 weeks. Eight participants have taken the course to date. The overall rating of the course is very good (4.8/5). Adaptive e-learning is well received compared with other e-learning types (8/10), but scores lower regarding usefulness, efficiency, and fun compared with the simulator training, despite improved conscious competency (32.6% ± 15.1%) and decreased subconscious incompetency (22.8% ± 10.2%). The subjective skill level improved by 20%. Asked about the estimated impact of the course, participants indicated that they had either learned something new that they plan to use in their practice (71.4%) or felt reassured in their practice (28.6%).

CONCLUSIONS

The development of a blended training course combining adaptive e-learning and simulator training in a rapid manner is feasible and leads to improved skills. Simulator training is rated more valuable by surgical trainees than theoretical e-learning; the impact of this type of training on patient care needs to be further investigated.