Letters To The Editor

Hands-on surgical training is incomparable

Arnold P. Advincula, MD; Chetna Arora, MD; and John P. Lenihan Jr, MD


Hands-on surgical training is incomparable

I am not one to critique new technology or new technique. The article on use of virtual reality to not only teach technique but also to grade it caught my attention. I work in a small hospital without a million-dollar robot. Very complicated cases are sent out to larger hospitals. We have 2 new graduates who, like most new grads, have little experience with many surgical techniques. Dr. Lenihan and I were resident classmates, so I know he understands the rigors of a no-hour limit residency. Even with our residency, when we got out we relied on our partners to assist us until they knew we could do cases with a surgical assistant (SA) or a less experienced helper.

We are asking too much of our new graduates. It is up to us to provide the help and assistance with surgeries that they are not comfortable doing. While virtual reality training is great for teaching robotics and some laparoscopic techniques, it cannot teach things such as anterior and posterior repairs, tension-free vaginal tape procedures, and enterocoele repair. We can all watch YouTube tutorials, but actually doing surgery is very different. We owe it to our new graduates to provide mentoring and encouragement with their surgical cases. At our hospital, mentoring the first 10 cases performed by a new physician (new grad or otherwise) used to be required, but that requirement is gone. Our service is one of the few that still has 2 physicians at every major case. We have an SA available, but we prefer to assist each other. This makes our laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy cases a 30- to 35-minute case. It allows us to teach anterior and posterior repair technique.

The involvement in surgical improvement is hands-on, and virtual reality training will never replace it.

Anthony J. Lemanski, MD
Kingman, Arizona

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