A robotic teaching session: separating tool from technique to emphasize a cognitive focused teaching environment


Most robotic curriculum requires simulation on a console prior to operative exposure. This practice does not permit experiencing the physical collisions with the robotic tools, which occurs during surgery. We designed and evaluated an innovative curriculum to address cognitive components and trouble-shoot robotic collisions when the surgeon lacks haptic feedback. We adapted our previous curriculum, designed to teach and document proficiency of robotic docking and instrument exchange, to include robotic collisions. Participants received a 10-min, didactic presentation describing finger grips, internal and external collisions, and instruction on how to trouble-shoot each type. Residents worked in pairs, one at the console and the other at bedside, to complete two simulation exercises. Participants manipulated the robot to determine how best to resolve the situations. Residents completed retrospective post-course surveys and instructors completed a final survey. For comparison, non-participants, PGY-matched surgical trainees, also completed a survey. All participants demonstrated proficiency in docking and instrument exchange. Compared to pre-session, post-session knowledge and confidence improved in five domains reflecting session objectives (p < 0.05). Participants could list and troubleshoot collisions more than the non-participant matched peers (p < 0.05). Instructors supported the additional collision components, but noted learners needed more time. Two of three non-participants expressed interest in a teaching session to address these components. Collisions occur using robotic technology and rarely get addressed in surgical training. We describe an opportunity for surgeons to trouble-shoot robotic collisions in a safe, simulated environment. This easily transferable curriculum represents one of the first industry-independent robotic teaching sessions for surgical trainees.

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Correspondence to Courtney A. Green.

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Conflict of interest

All authors (Courtney A Green, MD, Patricia S. O’Sullivan, EdD and Hueylan Chern, MD) declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Ethical approval has been deemed “Exempt” by the University of California, San Francisco Human Research Protection Program’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). (IRB # 17-23095; Reference # 200241, 10/02/2017).

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Green, C.A., O’Sullivan, P.S. & Chern, H. A robotic teaching session: separating tool from technique to emphasize a cognitive focused teaching environment. J Robotic Surg 13, 735–739 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11701-019-00921-6

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  • Surgical education
  • Robotic surgery
  • Resident training
  • Integrating robotic technology