Virtual Medical Education in a Time of Social Distancing

The move to online and virtual medical education has been accelerated by COVID-19, and these new learning opportunities possess multiple advantages which are here to stay.

Elective surgeries have been paused out of necessity, travel and scientific conferences have been canceled, and medical post-graduates have been co-opted into more crucial roles. The number of physicians per unit has begun to be limited by hospitals, and some have been forced to eliminate clinical placements completely.

Some physicians have been furloughed, and others cannot progress in their residency programs as part of their ongoing specialization. These new limitations have left many educators struggling to identify additional other training opportunities for their students.

Statements acknowledging the pandemic’s impact on training have been issued by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), but they emphasized that, “Under all circumstances, Sponsoring Institutions, in partnership with their programs and participating sites, must ensure educational continuity and the fulfillment of their obligations to residents, fellows, and others in the clinical learning environment.”

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), that certifies physicians in the United States, has adopted a stance of flexibility with regard to disruptions in training during COVID-19, for instance, “deferment of activities or requirements and/or the extension of cycle deadlines,” Yet, these are only short-term solutions to what could be a recurring, long-term problem. Due to the institutions’ difficulties, the ACGME has encouraged programs to use,“remote conferencing technology, web-based resources, and other innovative tools.”

Other organizations have also echoed this stance, and a joint statement by the respective presidents of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) and the International Nursing Association of Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) encouraged that, “regulatory bodies and policymakers demonstrate flexibility by allowing the replacement of clinical hours usually completed in a healthcare setting with that of virtually simulated experiences.”

Most states in the United States allow up to 25% of clinical hours to be simulation-based and some states permit over 50%. Numerous organizations have already looked to online education for training regarding COVID-19, and a number of them are now transitioning to online platforms for other training needs.

For instance, VirtaMed recently partnered with the leading international society of professionals in ultrasound for obstetrics and gynecology, ISUOG, in order to provide a joint seminar on ultrasound basic training.

Attendees participated in two hours of discussions, lectures, and practice on the ultrasound simulator, working with Dr. Gihad Chalouhi and using GynoS™, VirtaMed’s obstetric ultrasound simulator. In other parts of the world, trainees have individually turned to simulators where they have access.

Image Credit: Twitter | @BU_Orthopaedic

Societies are also moving online. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) just started a Sports Medicine Fellows Webinar Series, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) already provides online educational and professional development opportunities.

A number of other associations and organizations have followed suit, yet they are still faced with the challenge of how trainees can gain operative skills beyond the knowledge shared in webinar format. There is an acceleration towards incorporating simulation into medical training as a complement to webinars.

Simulation centers have been established by a number of well-regarded medical schools, where competency-based simulation programs offer trainees the chance to learn independently, respecting both social distancing and the need to decrease team sizes in the OR.

This shows a streamlining of the educational pipeline where trainees are able to learn the theory and basics online, then acquire hands-on skills with simulators before progressing to more complex skills in cadaver labs and then the OR. This streamlining decreases time and training cost, as well as the risks to both trainees and patients.

The new education program from VirtaMed provides a range of webinars and additional content to aid medical professionals in meeting their training requirements. VirtaMed is a medical education company that believes competency-based medical education is best provided by utilizing high-fidelity mixed reality simulators.

The Swiss-based company has teams in China and the USA which are supported by a worldwide network of experts in simulation training for general surgery, obstetrics, orthopedics, urology, and gynecology.


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About VirtaMed

VirtaMed is a Swiss company that develops & produces highly realistic surgical simulators for medical training. Surgeons use original instruments to train in a safe environment before performing surgeries on patients.


VirtaMed's vision is to improve the quality of medical care with state-of-the-art, virtual reality based medical training and education.


Our mission is to alter the way medical skills are taught.


As a company, we live innovation in a customer-oriented, agile, diverse and passionate work environment.

Sponsored Content Policy: publishes articles and related content that may be derived from sources where we have existing commercial relationships, provided such content adds value to the core editorial ethos of News-Medical.Net which is to educate and inform site visitors interested in medical research, science, medical devices and treatments.

Last updated: Jun 1, 2020 at 4:34 AM


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