Author Malcolm Gladwell once famously said it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. But the idea of practice is sometimes tricky in the medical field. Which is, in part, why more hospitals are integrating simulation into training.
There's a room at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville in which you can operate without really operating. It's called the simulator observation room.
Dr. Sandy Green showed us around. He's an interventional cardiologist and Associate Program Director for Interventional Fellowship at Geisinger.
"Without actually doing it on a real patient, this is about as close as you're gonna get. It provides good force feedback, which is what we call when you turn a catheter or put the needle in and you can feel resistance as you would in a real patient," said Dr. Green.
He and a general cardiology fellow, who allowed Newswatch 16 access to the room, say the cardiovascular simulator teaches the delicate work of catheterizations, allowing a "real feel" for novice doctors to learn the basics. But Dr. Green point out, it's also useful for the pros.
"If we are interested in practicing a complicated case, even as an experienced cardiologist, we can put in patient-centered data, and be able to practice on the simulator," he pointed out.
A second simulator is called a radial artery access simulator. It allows practice for a high-risk part of the catheterization procedure because of potential bleeding complications.
"One of the key parts of doing a cardiac catheterization is putting an IV in a patient's arm or leg. It's actually one of the most dangerous parts of the procedure."
He gave me a try on this one too, but I missed the vein. Dr. Green says with enough simulation practice I'd get it. Not unlike, he points out, an airline pilot, who logs many hours of simulation training before getting in a real cockpit.
"They're very well-trained before they ever put anyone's life at risk. There seems to be no reason not to expect the same thing out of our physicians."
Dr. Green says Geisinger was an early adaptor of simulation, and hopes it'll soon be more widely used in hospitals across the country.