RCSI collaboration with design students on simulator prototypes a “perfect symbiotic relationship”

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RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has marked the sixth year of its collaboration with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) to create surgical simulator prototypes.

Through the partnership, 12 students of the MSc in Medical Device Design at NCAD had the opportunity to present their surgical simulation projects in person to experts in RCSI’s Department of Surgical Affairs.

Surgical training is under increasing pressure due to reduced hours and exposure of trainee surgeons to surgical theatre time, as well as elevated patient expectations. Simulation offers an adjunct to traditional training in a protected environment, where trainee surgeons can learn at their own pace with the support and direction of expert faculty.

Given the complex range of procedures that trainee surgeons have to learn, it is a challenge to design a surgical simulator that satisfies the learning outcomes that are required.

Ms Leonie Heskin, Simulation Technology Lead in Postgraduate Surgical Education in RCSI, has been collaborating with Mr Enda O’Dowd and Mr Derek Valence, Directors of the MSc in Medical Device Design in NCAD, on this partnership since 2016.

As part of the project, Ms Heskin creates a brief for the students encompassing a simulation need in the Department of Surgical Affairs at RCSI, and the NCAD students are tasked with finding solutions. The students have an opportunity to observe a live surgery, make an illustrated task analysis and do a material analysis. They then construct the simulators using a number of moulding techniques and present them to the surgical faculty consultants in RCSI.

Commenting on the ongoing collaboration, Ms Heskin said: “It is such an honour to collaborate with the students on the MSc course in medical device design. Every year they present their work with such enthusiasm, saying they have learned so much in the process. Whereas in my view it is RCSI and, when the projects are developed further, the surgical trainees who will benefit – the perfect symbiotic relationship.”

NCAD student Honora Egan highlighted some of the benefits of working with RCSI on the project: “All questions were answered during the project in a helpful and engaging way. We learned so much from getting to know the anatomy, looking closely at what surgeons do and how they think during an operation.”

RCSI's Department of Surgical Affairs plans to continue the successful collaboration with NCAD in September 2022.