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Top 8 Video Games for Training Surgeons

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Who would have thought that a $60 piece of software on a $250 piece of hardware would become a critical training tool for laparoscopic surgeons?

While you could argue this statement isn’t universally accepted (yet), a 2007 study into the relevance of video games as a training tool for traditional, laparoscopic, and robot-assisted surgery bears-out what anyone who became a physician during or after the advent of Pong, Space Invaders or Pacman already knew…

…According to a 2007 study out of New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center, doctors who spent at least 3 hours a-week playing certain video games involving hand-eye co-ordination made roughly 37% fewer mistakes in the operating room.

They also finished surgical tasks 27% faster than doctors in the study who didn’t play video games.

Surgical training a-la Walmart
What’s more, another U.S. study suggested that strategy games such as World of Warcraft allowed doctors to hone their scientific thinking by puzzling though problems similar in-spirit to what they may face in the operating room.

One U.S. hospital has even intentionally placed console game stations in rooms meant to let doctors take naps.

Meanwhile, the Beth Israel team has started a “Top Gun” gaming program to let surgeons warm-up their co-ordination and dexterity before hitting the OR.

Best console games for doctors?
Noting the games that were used in the 2007 study, as well as several others in 2004, 2007, and 2008, here are our top 8 recommendations for console games that could help make you a better doctor:

1. Super Monkey Ball (Sega)
The main game used in both 2004 and 2007 Beth Israel studies, Super Monkey Ball is a prime example of a game that requires subtle hand movements to accomplish complex tasks.

2. Star Wars Racer Revenge (LucasArts)
Used in the 2007 Beth Israel study, this game was picked an example of a fast-paced racing game that takes place in three dimensions (i.e. unlike a car racing game, which might not be true to the spatial perception needed in surgery, this game involves movement on all three axis.)

3. Silent Scope (Konami)
First released in 1999, this sniper simulation could be considered a “vintage” arcade game, though the current version is available for your iPhone. Like other first-person-shooters, the dexterity to line-up and take a shot made this the third and final game tested in the Beth Israel study.

4. Shooting Range (Wii Play)
For practically the same reasons, an Arizona study – also in 2007 – used this updated version of Duck Hunter for the Nintendo Wii to try and amp-up the skills of surgeons.

5. Find Mii (Wii)
In an exercise that was thought to aid decision-making and higher-thinking, doctors trained with this Nintendo game that asks players to pick out “Mii”s in a crowd of people standing, swimming, riding an escalator, etc… that match a specific objective.

6. Marble Mania (Wii)
Doctors at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Centre who played this Tetris-in-spirit hand-eye-co-ordination brain-twister saw noticeable improvements in surgical performance.

7. Fishing (Wii Play)
Perhaps mimicking the styles of movement used in some surgeries, this game requires players to cast, hook, and yank upwards in just the right way, at just the right moment to accomplish a task.

8. World of Warcraft (Blizzard)
Surgeons found help in thinking scientifically among the pixels of catapults and orcs in this popular MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), and it figures: About 86% of players in World Of Warcraft discussion groups shared knowledge to solve game-related problems, and 56% used processes that were both systematic and evaluative.


Studies: Video games can make better students, surgeons

Video gamers make good surgeons: CBS News report

Surgeons Hone Skills on Nintendo Wii

Archives of Surgery article (and an interesting invited critique) of the 2007 study

Contributor Tera Rowland

Tera Rowland is the vice president of Soliant and has worked in the healthcare staffing industry for almost 20 years in public relations, social media, marketing and operations. In addition to Soliant, Tera worked at the Mayo Clinic as an internal communication manager and for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the American Staffing Association. Also, Tera has served on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum as part of the communication committee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations as well as a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of North Florida and has been published in the Huffington Post, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare Traveler Magazine, and Scrubs Magazine. Make sure to read the rest of Tera's blogs!