My mother was a very practical woman, turning her hand to everything from embroidery to upholstery and knitting, I am sure if I had asked her to do the sewing during a surgical procedure, she would have produced a much neater technical result than me.
Thankfully, she didn’t, have had the temperament to stick a knife into anyone but she had the technical skills to make a good job of the practical bit. But any hands-on technical exercise, is not done in isolation, there is planning and follow up, whether that’s a surgical procedure, flying an aircraft or transporting an exceptional convoy, in all these cases, the decisions made have enormous impacts on the outcomes, way beyond how well the skills part is done.
A surgical procedure has hundreds of decisions leading up to it and hundreds of decisions that need to be made during it. Those decisions – what’s the diagnosis, what are the alternatives to an operation, should we operate, when should we operate, how should we prepare the patient are massively important to the outcome of the surgery. As are the decisions and micro decisions that are made during the procedure – should I cut here? how about here? Should I clip, tie or diathermy this blood vessel.
Practice makes perfect, and experience leads to pattern recognition and quicker decisions. So how can we accelerate the training of the cognitive part? Well-constructed simulation training, often in surgery at least, tends to focus on the hands-on skills, but with thought it can also train the decisions.
Serious Games offer another way, using branching scenarios and other methods to repeatedly and deliberately practice the cognitive elements surrounding practical procedures, and with serious games you can do it in a fun way, and you can do it in isolation of the skills exercise, so that you can create deliberate practice of the cognitive component.