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Virtual reality simulation training of mastoidectomy - studies on novice performance

Virtual reality (VR) simulation-based training is increasingly used in surgical technical skills training including in temporal bone surgery. The potential of VR simulation in enabling high-quality surgical training is great and VR simulation allows high-stakes and complex procedures such as mastoidectomy to be trained repeatedly, independent of patients and surgical tutors, outside traditional learning environments such as the OR or the temporal bone lab, and with fewer of the constraints of traditional training. This thesis aims to increase the evidence-base of VR simulation training of mastoidectomy and, by studying the final-product performances of novices, investigates the transfer of skills to the current gold-standard training modality of cadaveric dissection, the effect of different practice conditions and simulator-integrated tutoring on performance and retention of skills, and the role of directed, self-regulated learning. Technical skills in mastoidectomy were transferable from the VR simulation environment to cadaveric dissection with significant improvement in performance after directed, self-regulated training in the VR temporal bone simulator. Distributed practice led to a better learning outcome and more consolidated skills than massed practice and also resulted in a more consistent performance after three months of non-practice. Simulator-integrated tutoring accelerated the initial learning curve but also caused over-reliance on tutoring, which resulted in a drop in performance when the simulator-integrated tutor-function was discontinued. The learning curves were highly individual but often plateaued early and at an inadequate level, which related to issues concerning both the procedure and the VR simulator, over-reliance on the tutor function and poor self-assessment skills. Future simulator-integrated automated assessment could potentially resolve some of these issues and provide trainees with both feedback during the procedure and immediate assessment following each procedure. Standard setting by establishing a proficiency level that can be used for mastery learning with deliberate practice could also further sophisticate directed, self-regulated learning in VR simulation-based training. VR simulation-based training should be embedded in a systematic and competency-based training curriculum for high-quality surgical skills training, ultimately leading to improved safety and patient care.