Transformation: BSSC

15 January 2015

A few weeks ago I wrote the first of several promised blog posts answering the question "What is it you DO, exactly?"  If you recall, my job is to bring transformation

The Basic Surgical Skills course is a two-day program designed to train surgeons and other physicians in the use of safe surgical techniques that are common to all forms of surgery and emergency care.  This course was developed by the Royal College of Surgeons in the UK and is required for all surgical students.   Much of the materials for the course are graciously provided by Johnson & Johnson and give the participants an opportunity to do something they rarely get to experience: they get to practice their skills.  

In all the courses we have run so far, we have used some kind of practice equipment; be it manikins for CPR or intubation, fake skin or foam for suturing, or infant simulators for newborn resuscitation; and the resounding request from all participants is can we do that again?? 

The Malagasy healthcare workers we are training don't have the luxury of skin simulator pads or extra suture for practicing; the only practice they get is on cadavers in medical school or live patients in their hospital.  That's where we get to be really generous!  We supply them with more than enough gloves, they don't have to wash them and reuse them again!  The course uses simulator kits and plenty of extra blades, sutures, and instruments so the participants are able to not only learn new skills but repeat them and practice them over, and over, and over, with expert supervision and guidance, until they get them right. 

But the practice opportunities don't stop at skin simulators; these doctors get the best training we can offer and for this course that means animal tissue. To be precise, pigs intestines (to practice bowel repair techniques), aorta (blood vessel repair), belly (for practicing different kinds of stitches, and removing of cysts and other lumps and bumps) and feet (tendon repair and wound cleaning).  These tissues most closely resemble their human counterparts and provide the most ideal training setup. 

I, as course manager, and my team, learned some valuable lessons this year during BSSC. Most notably, even if it is refrigerated, fresh pigs tissues degrade rather quickly and permeate the air with a most unsavory odor.  We used a LOT of air freshener.  

But nasty odors aside, the participants were all so pleased with the course and asked over and over, "when can we do this again" and "can we have this refresher training every six months?".  These surgeons and doctors learned valuable and critically needed skills for surgery, and one can only hope and pray that those new-found skills (or newly refined skills) will positively impact the lives of hundreds of future patients. 

Transformed people = Transformed medical practice = Transformed national health structure. 

Not a waste of materials, an abundance of blessings for the physicians and their future patients! 

Under that neoprene foam (which simulates the abdominal wall) there is a balloon!  The job of the surgeon is to open the cavity and then repair it without popping the balloon! 

Yep, those are pigs feet.

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