Perioperative nurses, responsible for the safety and comfort of patients before, during and after surgery, are the unsung heroes of the operating room.

They must also supply surgeons with the right instruments at the right times throughout a procedure.

Highly specialized, perioperative nurses are often assigned to a specific surgical team, each with its own procedures and instruments to be memorized. More often, these nurses are being assigned to surgical procedures that are increasingly complex.

“That can be an anxiety-provoking situation,” says Dr. David Clarke, head of neurosurgery at the QEII. “Our OR nurses might be asked to be scrubbed for an aneurysm one day, then a complex tumour case the next.”

Dr. Clarke saw this educational gap as an opportunity. In August 2009, when Dr. Clarke made history by performing the world’s first virtual reality brain surgery, he saw the potential for simulation-based learning for all aspects of health care. In cooperation with the British Columbia based software company, Conquer Mobile, Dr. Clarke and his colleagues developed PeriopSim, a mobile app which allows perioperative nurses to go through the motions of specific surgeries, all in a video-game format.

“This kind of technology provides a refresher, if you like, just before you go into surgery,” says Dr Clarke.

“It can be used by nurses and residents alike.”

At its most basic, the app requires the learner to identify surgical instruments during a simulated procedure. As the app has continued to evolve, so too have the simulations it offers. Some, for example, are accompanied with video footage showing key steps of a surgery, starring the surgical staff of the QEII. The learner is scored in each round based on their ability to identify instruments and the speed with which they do so.

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