Ali J, Dunn J, Eason M, Drumm J. Comparing the standardized live trauma patient and the mechanical simulator models in the ATLS initial assessment station. J Surg Res. 2010 Jul;162(1):7-10. Epub 2010 Mar 19

PMID: 20452620


Mechanical simulators may be an acceptable substitute for the live patient model in trauma skills teaching and assessment. We compare these models in the initial assessment station of the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course.
After a pilot project utilizing both models in a provider ATLS course it appeared that the mechanical model would be satisfactory for ATLS teaching and assessment. Instructors (n = 32) and ATLS Students (n = 64) were randomly selected from our database and completed a questionnaire evaluating the patient model and the simulator after viewing a video in which the simulator replaced the patient model. The evaluators indicated whether the patient and simulator models were satisfactory and then compared them by indicating whether there was any difference between the models, indicating which was more challenging, interesting, dynamic, enjoyable, realistic, and better overall. Comments were also written in the evaluation form.
All 32 instructors and 64 students indicated that both the patient and simulator models were satisfactory for teaching and testing ATLS resuscitation skills. At least 62 of the 64 students rated the simulator higher in all categories. Two students rated the patient model as more realistic and two noted no difference in terms of being more interesting. All 32 instructors indicated that the simulator was more challenging, interesting, dynamic, and better overall. Two of the 32 instructors indicated that the patient model was more enjoyable and two indicated that there was no difference as far as the models being realistic. Comments included inability to hear breath sounds that were changing in the patient model as opposed to the simulator model, and the simulator was more interesting and dynamic because the hemodynamic and physiologic parameters could be witnessed without being prompted by the instructor. One main concern expressed by the participants was the more costly simulator, and two instructors indicated that the scenarios could be improved to fit the superior capabilities of the simulator.
There was strong support from both students and instructors for the use of the simulator as a satisfactory substitute for the live patient model. The cost of the simulator is considered a significant issue. However, in centers where simulators are readily available, it appears from our data that it is a very satisfactory substitute for the patient model in teaching and assessing trauma resuscitation skills in the ATLS program.

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