OBJECTIVE: To establish the efficacy of simulation-based training for improving residents' management of postoperative complications on a surgical ward.
BACKGROUND: Effective postoperative care is a crucial determinant of patient outcome, yet trainees learn this through the Halstedian approach. Little evidence exists on the efficacy of simulation in this safety-critical environment.
METHODS: A pre-/postintervention design was employed with 185 residents from 5 hospitals. Residents participated in 2 simulated ward-based scenarios consisting of a deteriorating postoperative patient. A debriefing intervention was implemented between scenarios. Resident performance was evaluated by calibrated, blinded assessors using the validated Global Assessment Toolkit for Ward Care. This included an assessment of clinical skills (checklist of 35 tasks), team-working skills (score range 1-6 per skill), and physician-patient interaction skills.
RESULTS: Excellent interrater reliability was achieved in all assessments (reliability 0.89-0.99, P < 0.001). Clinically, improvements were obtained posttraining in residents' ability to recognize/respond to falling saturations (pre = 73.7% vs post = 94.8%, P < 0.01), check circulatory status (pre = 21.1% vs post = 84.2% P < 0.001), continuously reassess patient (pre = 42.1% vs post = 100%, P < 0.001), and call for help (pre = 36.8% vs post = 89.8%, P < 0.001). Regarding teamwork, there was a significant improvement in residents' communication (pre = 1.75 vs post = 3.43), leadership (pre = 2.43 vs post = 4.20), and decision-making skills (pre = 2.20 vs post = 3.81, P < 0.001). Finally, residents improved in all elements of interaction with patients: empathy, organization, and verbal and nonverbal expression (Ps < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: The study provides evidence for the efficacy of ward-based team training using simulation. Such exercises should be formally incorporated into training curricula to enhance patient safety in the high-risk surgical ward environment.
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