Mastery-Based Virtual Reality Robotic Simulation Curriculum: The First Step Toward Operative Robotic Proficiency

Melissa E. Hogg, MD, MS, Vernissia Tam, MD, Mazen Zenati, MD, PhD, Stephanie Novak, MS, Jennifer Miller, MD, Amer H. Zureikat, MD, Herbert J. Zeh III, MD


Hepatobiliary surgery is a highly complex, low-volume specialty with long learning curves necessary to achieve optimal outcomes. This creates significant challenges in both training and measuring surgical proficiency. We hypothesize that a virtual reality curriculum with mastery-based simulation is a valid tool to train fellows toward operative proficiency. This study evaluates the content and predictive validity of robotic simulation curriculum as a first step toward developing a comprehensive, proficiency-based pathway.

A mastery-based simulation curriculum was performed in a virtual reality environment. A pretest/posttest experimental design used both virtual reality and inanimate environments to evaluate improvement. Participants self-reported previous robotic experience and assessed the curriculum by rating modules based on difficulty and utility.

This study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pittsburgh, PA), a tertiary care academic teaching hospital.

A total of 17 surgical oncology fellows enrolled in the curriculum, 16 (94%) completed.

Of 16 fellows who completed the curriculum, 4 fellows (25%) achieved mastery on all 24 modules; on average, fellows mastered 86% of the modules. Following curriculum completion, individual test scores improved (p < 0.0001). An average of 2.4 attempts was necessary to master each module (range: 1-17). Median time spent completing the curriculum was 4.2 hours (range: 1.1-6.6). Total 8 (50%) fellows continued practicing modules beyond mastery. Survey results show that “needle driving” and “endowrist 2” modules were perceived as most difficult although “needle driving” modules were most useful. Overall, 15 (94%) fellows perceived improvement in robotic skills after completing the curriculum.

In a cohort of board-certified general surgeons who are novices in robotic surgery, a mastery-based simulation curriculum demonstrated internal validity with overall score improvement. Time to complete the curriculum was manageable.

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