Meet Martina Vitz

Head of Training & Education for Virtamed

Good morning Martina Vitz. You are in charge of the training & learning at Virtamed. Could you introduce yourself in a few words?

Martina Vitz :  After my PhD in Biomedical Engineering I entered the world of high-tech solutions for the operating room. Over many years I worked for medical robotic start-ups and realized that the best surgical tool is only as good as the doctor who uses it and that patient safety wasn’t guaranteed without a good training curriculum.

Why did you decide to get specialized in training via virtual reality simulators?What are the last updates in simulators?

As a technophile, it was inevitable that I looked for a technical solution to improve training; something that would apply state-of-the-art technology to adult education. It is more than 15 years ago that I started to train young Swiss residents on laparoscopy simulators. During this time I was also working as a consultant for VirtaMed. 2 years ago, I wished to influence medical training beyond internal surgery, and began working closer with VirtaMed as the established market leader with the best technology solutions.
We should not lose sight of the ultimate goal of patient safety. A lot has been achieved to understand the elements that need to be learned and therefore need to be simulated. Alongside, we have increasing awareness that repetition leads to learning, and increasing insight into what to repeat and how to repeat it.
With simulation we have re-usable and therefore sustainable teaching tools, and our challenge is to match these with a sustainable educational pathway.

France is the first country that recommended training via simulators to all residents in surgery. How does that improve their training?

A mandate for simulation means that training can be standardized and democratized. The simulator allows us to quantify three key stages of training:

1. Evaluation of innate skills to establish the starting point for each trainee

2. Training progressively more difficult skills and techniques

3. Transferring these skills to a clinical setting once they have reached a defined proficiency level
When we master these stages as part of a defined curriculum, we can be confident that trainees have the motor skills required to perform treatments.

Recents studies have been carried out to evaluate the impact of simulation on educational programmes in surgery. Could you tell us more about these studies?

Standardized proficiency-based training is the only way to deepen your knowledge and keep it ready for use in the high-pressure setting of the operating room. Various studies have been carried out in this sector. By recognizing learning patterns, we may be able to create specific courses from these patterns.
This is slowly becoming possible because today's computers can analyze large amounts of data. Although still futuristic, I can imagine that a simulator of the future also provides individualized learning programs to optimize skills acquisition and retention. Thus, not only will everyone learn at their own pace, but they will also train on their own personal path to a level that serves the sanctity of the patient.

On September 25th, you will be in live with Philippe Valenti for a simulation. What is the aim of this live session?

The objective of the session is to show the educational relevance of our simulators.  By commencing with a “warm up” on the FAST module, we show that a surgeon must be comfortable and confident with their instrument set before embarking on a procedure. Then progressing to the realistic anatomy of the shoulder, both the expert technique can be demonstrated, alongside the ability to make mistakes. Of course, we would never think to experiment in a cadaver or in a real patient, and the simulator offers us this possibility to try different techniques, while all the time measuring our actions and attention to patient safety.

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