Medical simulation as a moment to reflect

Yesterday, I had an eye-opening experience that made me reflect once again about relationships.

During the afternoon, I had to attend a mandatory trauma simulation event. Since I am a surgeon, I am referring to physical traumas like traffic or firearms accidents, and just to be clear — psychological traumas are not included in these groups, even when I firmly believe that some of them would justify such an efficient and organized trauma treatment response.

As always, I arrived a little earlier than the scheduled time, to be sure that I was on time. Nobody was in the auditorium beside me. In the room, next to the auditorium, I could see what looked exactly like the emergency room, and I could see a “body” lying down in the bed.

We started the simulation, and the first “patient” survived. The models that are frequently used during simulations are rubber mannequins made in different sizes (adult, child, and baby) and they breathe, blink the eye, moan, have heart pulse and can suffer from a cardiac arrest at any time. After the experience, we all went to another room and, on a big screen, watched the video of the trauma resuscitation simulation with the goal to evaluate our own performance, as well as the team performance.

Well, for people that have not chosen to be an actor or actress, watching yourself on a big screen it is, at least, an awkward experience. Our voice is a higher pitch than what we imagined, our accent is much stronger than previously thought, and all the fast action that you thought you have had is contradicted by moments in which you see yourself looking at the ceiling, while, in theory, the patient is in need of your services.

This experience reflects the fact that our brain registers differently how the facts had happened, and that for obvious reasons, our brain tends, during most situations, to record us better than what we actually are, or to record us as the victim of a certain situation. This could be interpreted as a defense mechanism or even a survival one, but there is no doubt that it can also be deleterious. I wonder what would happen if we constantly had the option to watch the movie of our lives, and on special occasions, we and others could actually judge what had really happened. In front of the screen, it would be very hard to deny the evidence.

But I think it would be healthy to take away the focus that is usually pointing towards our belly button and see the big picture, understand everything, understand the other. The truth is that none of us is a saint or perfect enough to always be the hero, not even in our own movies.

Andrea Bischoff is a colorectal pediatric surgeon.

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