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Using memory science to train surgeons

Novel approach: Dr Lorraine Hope

Novel approach: Dr Lorraine Hope

A Portsmouth professor is heading to America as part of a new international collaboration aimed at improving surgical training and performance in high pressure situations.

The proposed project will be the first collaboration of its kind, and the first time forensic memory elicitation techniques have been used in a medical training setting.

Professor Lorraine Hope will be examining the role of memory in the training of surgeons. The project will be conducted in collaboration with Dr Steven Yule, Director of Education and Research at the STRATUS Centre for Medical Simulation, Harvard Medical School.

Professor Hope, who is professor of applied cognitive psychology at University of Portsmouth says: “The key to a successful team is a combination of both technical skills, using equipment effectively, and non-technical skills, such as decision making, communication and situational awareness.

“We are seeking to improve training in the complex skills necessary for high pressure situations, such as surgery.”

Realistic simulation training in mock-operating rooms is a cornerstone of surgical team training and provides a safe environment in which to improve skills, develop expertise and gain experience of complex technical challenges.

Professor Hope is an expert in the development of innovative interviewing techniques, and Dr Yule is an expert in team performance in high risk contexts.

Professor Hope thinks that a valuable part of this training is the post-simulation debriefing or discussion.

She says: “Often the post-training discussions do not allow sufficient time for individuals to independently reflect on what has just happened. This is a concern. Using the skills I have with respect to interviewing and information elicitation, I hope to address this by facilitating surgery trainees to accurately reflect on what happened and understand why.

“This will lead to better memory of events, which will improve the ability to identify and learn from errors in training, and ultimately lead to the creation of better crisis teams. Drawing on Dr Yule’s expertise in simulation-based training I am confident that we will make an important contribution in this field.”

The project will be conducted at Harvard Medical School and will involve Professor Hope and Dr Yule developing a method to improve memory recall and enable trainees to learn more effectively from simulations. Initial pilot testing will take place during summer 2015.

The collaboration is funded by the Royal Society International Exchange programme.

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