At the beginning of February, the Medical Education Technology Centre of Rīga Stradiņš University hosted the First Baltic Sea Symposium on Simulation and Virtual Reality for Education in Health Care and Patient Safety. Professor Jürgen Lorenz (pictured) from Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg, Germany) was among the organisers of the symposium. He agreed to a short interview.
What was the main objective of the symposium?
The main objective of this symposium was to bring together experts to discuss issues related to various simulation and virtual reality technologies and to share experience, establish contacts and seek opportunities for cooperation.
The target audience for the symposium included medical students, residency students and medical practitioners.
Use of simulation technologies fosters the acquisition of skills required to perform such complicated procedures as artificial respiration, heart massage, intubation and many other procedures. Nowadays training on real patients is impossible for prospective doctors due to safety considerations.
During the symposium we focused on the acquisition of technical skills, as well as teamwork and doctor-patient communication skills. Great emphasis was laid on practical training – several master classes with the participation of international experts from Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Finland and other countries were held. It involved the simulation of various complicated situations which can be potentially faced by doctors in their work followed by an analysis of each situation.
We also paid attention to the method of simulation where students are teaching other students. It is an efficient method in terms of costs and is beneficial for senior medical students, as it provides an opportunity for students to improve their knowledge, gain experience and develop their communication skills. Denmark can boast of having a very good experience in applying this method. I also had a conversation with representatives of RSU Student Council about this method.
This symposium was widely attended – 25 lecturers from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Finland and Denmark took part.
Why Rīga Stradiņš University was chosen as a venue? What are your impressions of RSU Medical Education Technology Centre?
RSU Medical Education Technology Centre is the most notable and the best equipped education centre of its kind in the Baltic states, therefore I found it a perfect venue for the symposium.
I got to know about the Medical Education Technology Centre on RSU webpage – I took a virtual tour, and I was pleasantly surprised about the opportunities provided by the excellently equipped Clinical Skills Training Centre located in the Medical Education Technology Centre. Later, thanks to the support provided by Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and other institutions, I had an opportunity to deliver lectures in physiology to RSU medical students as a visiting lecturer. Due to frequent travels to Latvia I could take time to prepare everything for the symposium together with cooperation partners.
Please tell us about simulation and virtual reality technologies available at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences? How are these technologies integrated in the study process?
Our university offers various dummies for performing medical manipulations and also a virtual reality system enabling students to explore medical scenarios inside a virtual hospital. The prospective doctors acquire practical experience in handling crisis and interacting with a patient. This method resembles a video game.
Besides, we are also using actors to portray patients with various medical conditions, or invite retired doctors who are very familiar with signs and symptoms of different diseases.
Many universities in Germany have introduced training with simulation and virtual reality technologies already during the first year of studies.
How widely are simulation technologies used around the world at the moment? What will the future look like?
Use of simulation and virtual reality based training is fast becoming a vital source of learning in medical education. In Denmark these technologies have already been used for ten years, whereas in Germany and other developed countries in Europe and all across the world – for a bit shorter period. Surely, the Baltic States would highly benefit from the experience of these countries, therefore, I find it great that that such a centre is established in Latvia and the work on creating an international cooperation and experience exchange network is started.
Due to the progressive introduction of these technologies, students can acquire clinical skills in performing even complicated operations, as well as teamwork and doctor-patient communication skills in a shorter period of time. Simulation-based medical training is close to the reality and safe method for a patient and for a doctor, and is much more efficient than the classical training method in terms of costs.
There is a lack of studies on the advantages of medical simulation training over traditional training system, as such studies require time and are complex. However, I believe that we are on the right track, as there are numerous advantages of the use of simulation technologies in medical training. This is also my wish for Rīga Stradiņš University – to use the opportunities offered by the Medical Education Technology Centre as efficiently as possible, gain experience from colleagues in other countries and create a cooperation and experience exchange network!