(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Surgical Technology instructor Yolanda Ramirez maneuvers her laparoscope carefully within a virtual patient’s gallbladder. Her mission? To find four gallstones as quickly and smoothly as possible.
When she completes the exercise, Ramirez discovers that though she located all the specimens, her scope work needs some improvement.
“I’m moving around too much,” she said, studying her feedback on the screen. “I was drifting. The surgeon that’s watching this, I probably could be making him dizzy.”
The high-fidelity laparoscopic simulation is possible with a new piece of equipment for the TSTC Surgical Technology program: the LapSim ST.
“This is a very high-tech simulation that surgical techs really have a privilege to be using,” said Anna San Pedro, TSTC Surgical Technology program director. “It really is the next level up of what is required of students to have as a skill set. We believe it’s going to challenge the students to be more aware of where the anatomy’s at, make them more aware of how to maneuver the instrumentation. They have to know, if there’s a bleeder, how the surgeon’s going to approach it.”
The LapSim provides various modules and simulations with the goal of allowing surgical tech students to learn and master the skills they would need to assist surgeons in the operating room. In a real laparoscopic procedure, a surgical technician would hold the scope for the surgeon. In practicing with the LapSim, students can interchange instruments and experience the full context of what a procedure would be like — including what happens if they get too close to certain parts of a simulated patient’s anatomy with a tool.
“If you nick an artery, it’s going to start bleeding,” San Pedro said. “They have to quickly assess and fix it because if they don’t, they failed that skill set.”
As they anticipate introducing the LapSim to students starting this fall, San Pedro and Ramirez are excited about the potential the equipment has for the Surgical Technology program.
“I love the LapSim, and I think it will be great,” Ramirez said. “The student gets an assessment of the entire exercise, and it kind of breaks it up for them so they can see what they need to improve on.”
Ramirez will track student progress through the technology and note advancements, as well as areas that require additional practice.
San Pedro hopes training on the LapSim will be a marketable skill that TSTC graduates can highlight.
“This is the pathway — we do a lot more laparoscopic robotic surgery than we ever have. That’s really the go-to way to do surgery these days,” she said. “If we didn’t have this, students would be missing out on learning these skill sets that are very necessary for emerging technologies.”
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology at the Harlingen campus.
Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.