Simulation training prepares UK anesthesiology residents for crisis management

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (September 26, 2022) — Fortunately for doctors and patients, advances in medicine and health care have reduced the number of medical emergencies. However, for anesthesiologists-in-training, it also means fewer caseloads that help them develop skills in their field.

Aric Johnson, MD, helps residents and fellows gain this necessary experience through advanced simulation training.

“A kicker does not wait until the game is in play to attempt the first field goal. The technique must be practiced before the game frequently and consistently to perfect the skill,” said Johnson, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and co-director of simulation in his department. “We allow residents to gain experience with life-threatening acute pathologies in a simulated environment.”

“With our simulations, we’re basically trying to recreate high-fidelity situations to ensure residents still get that exposure,” Johnson said.

At the UK College of Medicine, residents and fellows use state-of-the-art task trainers: plastic models designed to practice procedures such as airway management, virtual bronchoscopy, echocardiography, placement central line and epidural placement. Residents and fellows also use part-task trainers and standardized patients.

“Residency is a training period for physicians, and it’s crucial that they hone their clinical skills during postgraduate training,” said Zaki Hassan, MD, chair of anesthesiology. “Thanks to our cutting-edge simulation training and highly trained faculty, anesthesiology residents across the UK receive the vital education needed to prepare them for real clinical scenarios.”

The training takes place at the UK HealthCare Simulation Center, an advanced simulation training center on the second floor of the Albert B. Chandler Hospital. The center includes a replica of an operating room, as well as an intensive care room.

“These rooms contain all the equipment that would be in the real-life setting,” Johnson said.

Johnson completed his residency training in the UK in 2021, and he clearly remembers the importance of simulation training in honing his skills. He said former program director Annette Rebel, MD, built a strong foundation for simulation training that benefited her during her residency.

In 2011, Rebel helped launch the annual Anesthesia Olympics in the UK, an innovative grantmaking project to assess the progress of anesthesiology residents’ skills. Residents demonstrate their skills at multiple workstations, and faculty assess strengths and skills that could be improved. Just like at the Olympics, residents can win gold, silver and bronze medals.

Knowing that Johnson had a passion for education, Rebel offered him the opportunity to help develop a simulation program. Johnson attended an anesthesia teaching workshop at the Harvard Center for Medical Simulation and, after graduating from residency, began her role as co-director of simulation in 2021, alongside Shira Gambrel, MD, professor associate degree in anesthesiology.

The College of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology continues to advance its simulation training, recognizing its importance in helping residents and fellows provide optimal patient care. Over the past year, the department has implemented four hours of protected didactic time for residents, including two hours free from the clinic and devoted to simulation training.

“The University of Kentucky recognizes the importance of simulation training in improving the clinical skills of future physicians,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting to be a part of this and to help grow these efforts.”