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Optimizing Healthcare Provider Performance: Mental Skills Training to Make Average Performance Excellent
Event Type
Oral Presentations
TimeFriday, April 161:10pm - 1:30pm EDT
LocationHospital Environments
DescriptionResearch has shown that emergency department nurses and physicians, anesthesiologists, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals are commonly confronted with stress that can compromise patient safety. This stress can negatively impact technical and nontechnical surgical performance, and limit the transfer of simulation-acquired surgical skills in the operating room. These performance impediments can lead to errors and potentially decrease patient safety. Importantly, in a recent survey conducted at our institution, 40% of responding surgeons (i.e., attendings and residents) indicated that they had witnessed an intraoperative complication due to surgeon stress. Mental skills are cognitive strategies that help performers consistently achieve optimal performance under stressful and cognitively demanding conditions. Mental skills training programs have been successfully implemented to enhance the performance of military pilots,10 police special forces, U.S. Navy SEALS, and elite athletes. To this point, other than mental imagery (i.e., mental rehearsal), mental skills have rarely been applied with healthcare professionals to enhance their performance. In the limited studies where mental skills have been implemented with healthcare providers, results indicate that mental skills can enhance performance and reduce stress.

Dimitrios Stefanidis, MD, PhD, FACS, FASMBS, and his associates at the Indiana University School of Medicine have developed and obtained validity evidence of a novel, comprehensive mental skills curriculum to teach performance-enhancement and stress-coping strategies to diverse learners. Several related research strategies have involved the implementation of mental skills with future healthcare providers (pre-medical students) and surgical residents. The mental skills taught during this curriculum are being practically applied during the learners’ Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery simulation training, to develop these skills into habits for performance that can be easily implemented in challenging clinical situations. There are lessons to be gleaned from this project on how to optimally apply mental skills training with healthcare providers, which may offer helpful suggestions that should be disseminated to the simulation community.

This workshop will consist of an interactive discussion about the negative impact of stress on healthcare providers’ learning and performance and the potential effects on patient safety. Based on their experience managing stress (i.e., acutely and chronically), participants will also discuss the role of mental skills in reducing the psychological barriers to optimal performance (e.g., stress and distractions), and the rationale for developing a formal mental skills curriculum to be implemented during simulation training. The workshop instructors will provide an introduction to the mental skills curriculum implemented at the Indiana University School of Medicine (i.e., which will include a brief overview of evidence of the curriculum’s effectiveness), and active learning of performance enhancement and stress coping strategies from the curriculum (i.e., centering with rapid relaxation, developing action plans, mental imagery). Following this applied practice, participants will be engaged in discussion to consider how mental skills could enhance the performance of inexperienced healthcare providers and other practitioners, identify how mental skills can be optimally applied in simulation training, and how mental skills training could enhance the performance of the next generation of healthcare providers and help lead healthcare simulation into the future.