Summer Volunteer – Medical Simulation Experience

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Earlier this summer we had the good fortune to have Phillip Telenfus, a first year Medical Student, spend a month as a volunteer here at the Center for Medical Simulation. Phillip finished up a few weeks ago and was kind enough to write about his experience as a volunteer at CMS.  I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I did.


Entering an operating room for the first time is an exhilarating experience for a first year medical student. The patient covered in blue drapes, the lights, the monitors and the trays of silver instruments create an intense environment. As I stand next to the operating table, I observe the scene. The mood is busy but peaceful. People whisper. Everyone has their own job to do.  I pay attention to the words and learn like a sponge: crichoid pressure, ET tube, Art-line, scalpel, bovie, suction. As a 1st year medical student who is accustomed to the classroom  setting , I find  myself in foreign territory assisting  a team of anesthesiology residents  and staff in the management of  a  critical  patient with  malignant hyperthermia.  In this scenario however I am not a medical student. I am a scrub tech. I am listening to the control room through a speaker in my ear. My fellow confederates in the operating room are giving the team clues and guide them as they work through the differential diagnosis and treatment options. I am not a real scrub tech. The woman in front of us covered in sterile drapes is not a real patient but a robotic mannequin. Welcome to the world of medical simulation! A cutting-edge model for critical events training for residents and attending physicians at the Center for Medical Simulation in Cambridge, MA where I was able to volunteer for the past month.

During my month at the simulator center I observed and participated in many simulated medical scenarios from anesthesia crisis management to labor and delivery emergencies. The participant physicians came from all over the country and the world to become simulator trainers as well as engage in the program. My role at the center involved setting up the simulation rooms as well as acting as a variety of characters (nurse, scrub tech and even a family member) in the scenarios. While I observed the participants practicing technical skills, such as how to intubate a patient, start an intravenous line and deliver a breech baby in the simulator center, I learned that simulation is even more about learning the art of medicine. The practice of medicine, especially in critical cases, is a collaborative, group-oriented effort. I was impressed to see how some teams were able to come together, break down hierarchy and engage in effective communication and collaboration to maximize the patient’s outcome while other teams would miss the mark. I learned valuable concepts such as closed loop communication and advocacy inquiry. I learned that the most effective team leaders listened more than they talked as they summarized the situation, they asked for help and verified that help was on the way. The medical simulation environment is an amazing opportunity for any medical student and I feel fortunate to have had this wonderful opportunity to be exposed to the science and art of medicine. In conclusion, my search for an active, clinical experience this summer was a success at the Center for Medical Simulation and I hope to return and continue my learning there as I progress through my medical education.

 Phillip Telefus, Medical Student – CMS Volunteer