AHS expands simulation training for new surgical nurses

January 19, 2016

EDMONTON – New surgical nurses are now receiving more hands-on training with the expansion of a local Alberta Health Services (AHS) simulation program.

A year ago, the Centre for the Advancement of Minimally Invasive Surgery (CAMIS), based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, expanded their nursing lab training program, giving novice and intermediate surgical nurses 84 hours of simulation training. Previously, they would receive about 13 hours of simulation training.

The goal is to better prepare them for a career in the operating room (OR).

“Operating rooms are complex, high-stakes work environments; they aren’t the best classroom for developing new surgical skills,” says Dr. Daniel Birch, CAMIS Medical Director.

“The simulations are environments where learners can make a mistake, and then debrief and learn how to respond in a more appropriate way.

“Our surgical nurses have always been well trained to do what they need to do to optimize patient safety and patient outcomes,” adds Dr. Birch. “But AHS is an organization that strives for continuous improvement. If we can improve the training we provide, we’re compelled to do that.”

Surgical nurses have a variety of roles, including laying out and preparing instruments, as well as monitoring the patients and alerting the OR team to any changes.

CAMIS’ simulation labs allow the multi-disciplinary team to operate and troubleshoot in a simulated setting before participating in surgeries on real patients. Based on research showing that simulation training is equivalent to clinical training, the labs have the advantage of allowing learners to practise in an environment where there is no impact to patient safety.

“It’s a benefit to our patients to have well-rehearsed surgical teams performing their operations,” says Kenny Davidson, Patient Care Manager of Operative Services at the University of Alberta Hospital. “They are familiar with simple and complicated procedures, they communicate as a team, and this reduces the OR time needed for training. The simulation labs are a big win; rehearsal is one of the best methods of learning.”

With instruction from OR registered nurses, surgeons and simulation experts, trainees learn and review OR technical components, troubleshooting, crisis management, and communication between the multi-disciplinary team. Instructors can also ensure the trainees experience situations that don’t typically occur a clinical setting, such as a fire in the OR or unexpected bleeding in a patient.

“Much like how a pilot would do aviation simulation training, we want our learners to have rehearsed a variety of possibilities prior to assuming full responsibilities in the OR,” says CAMIS manager Keith Andony. “Surgical teams are telling us that when these trainees go into the OR, they’re more skilled, confident, are able to anticipate what the team needs, and can effectively troubleshoot.”

More than 50 learners have completed the training in the past year. The instructor evaluations and self-evaluations have been positive, with 100 per cent of trainees noting they improved their knowledge as a result of participating in the simulation lab sessions. In addition to improved skills, instructors report trainees work more effectively as a team and understand not just their own roles but their colleagues’ as well.

Established in 2005, the Centre for the Advancement of Minimally Invasive Surgery (CAMIS) is in a custom-designed, multipurpose training facility and offices at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. CAMIS is a nationally recognized leader in minimally invasive surgical management, education, training, and research.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.


For media inquiries, contact:

Shelly Willsey
AHS Communications