Validation and implementation of surgical simulators: a critical review of present, past, and future

Barbara M. A. Schout*, A. J. M. Hendrikx, F. Scheele, Bart L. H. Bemelmans, A. J. J. A. Scherpbier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the past 20 years the surgical simulator market has seen substantial growth. Simulators are useful for teaching surgical skills effectively and with minimal harm and discomfort to patients. Before a simulator can be integrated into an educational program, it is recommended that its validity be determined. This study aims to provide a critical review of the literature and the main experiences and efforts relating to the validation of simulators during the last two decades. Subjective and objective validity studies between 1980 and 2008 were identified by searches in Pubmed, Cochrane, and Web of Science. Although several papers have described definitions of various subjective types of validity, the literature does not offer any general guidelines concerning methods, settings, and data interpretation. Objective validation studies on endourological simulators were mainly characterized by a large variety of methods and parameters used to assess validity and in the definition and identification of expert and novice levels of performance. Validity research is hampered by a paucity of widely accepted definitions and measurement methods of validity. It would be helpful to those considering the use of simulators in training programs if there were consensus on guidelines for validating surgical simulators and the development of training programs. Before undertaking a study to validate a simulator, researchers would be well advised to conduct a training needs analysis (TNA) to evaluate the existing need for training and to determine program requirements in a training program design (TPD), methods that are also used by designers of military simulation programs. Development and validation of training models should be based on a multidisciplinary approach involving specialists (teachers), residents (learners), educationalists (teaching the teachers), and industrial designers (providers of teaching facilities). In addition to technical skills, attention should be paid to contextual, interpersonal, and task-related factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-546
JournalSurgical endoscopy and other interventional techniques
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Surgery
  • Training
  • Simulation
  • Model
  • Validation
  • Implementation

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