London Health Sciences Centre’s CSTAR is one of the most advanced surgical sim centres in North America

London Health Sciences Centre’s CSTAR is one of the most advanced surgical sim centres in North America
November 15, 2016

At first glance, the Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics (CSTAR) training centre looks like an ordinary office building. But inside is an entire world of simulation, from task trainers to team-based training, and education research to next generation computer-assisted simulation technologies. Today, CSTAR is a world-leading centre for researching, developing, testing and delivering simulation training of minimally invasive techniques to surgeons, as well as technical and non-technical skills for anaesthesia, emergency, critical care medicine and allied health care professions. CSTAR is owned and operated by the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

CSTAR was originally created as a leading institution for robotic cardiac surgery after a world’s first successful robotic beating heart coronary bypass graft (CABG) was performed at LHSC in 1999. As result, CSTAR quickly evolved into one of the most advanced surgical simulation centres in North America. With 22,500 square feet and $5M in infrastructure and equipment, CSTAR includes two simulation laboratories, a multi-media centre, boardroom, three meeting rooms and the Kelman Centre for Advanced Learning.  

Photo:  One of the simulation laboratories

Today, CSTAR is known for its focus on robotics research and development of surgical technology. Since 2009, the centre has been awarded over $10M in research funding in key areas such as robotics and computer assisted simulation technologies. CSTAR is also an Accredited Education Institute of the American College of Surgeons.

“What sets CSTAR apart are its three areas of focus. These are simulation research, engineering development, and simulation and education delivery. Almost all simulation centres provide education and simulation training, but the other two components make CSTAR a truly unique training facility,” says Phil Hunt, director of business development, CSTAR & ESS, London Health Sciences Centre.

Photo:  Engineers’ work space

Through interprofessional healthcare innovation, CSTAR strives to improve quality of care and patient safety. The centre is essentially a large meeting space where physicians, researchers, and engineers can collaborate and innovate.

“It works like a system,” says Hunt. “First, physicians consult with researchers on an idea. The researchers then take the idea and work with engineers to create the product. Finally, the product moves into the hands of educators and simulationists.”

Part of this intricate system are researchers and engineers from the Faculty of Engineering at Western University, collaborations with imaging scientists at the Robarts Research Institute and education scientists at Schulich’s Centre for Education Research and Innovation, and LHSC’s clinical and non-clinical simulation/education experts. CSTAR is also the simulation hub for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and the Canadian training centre for DaVinci® surgical robots.

Approximately 200 clinical simulation and training events are run at CSTAR every year, hosting up to 2,500 trainees from all healthcare professions. These include not just physicians in-training and in-practice, but also other healthcare professionals such as nurses and hospital staff including Environmental Support Workers (ESWs).

“CSTAR prepares healthcare professionals by giving them the team training skills they need to be an effective team in the moment. Simulation is not just about the simulated tasks. It’s also about building communication and team work. It’s important to practice in a non-clinical environment, so that individuals and the team are prepared for any scenario,” says Hunt.

Photo:  A manikin in one of the simulation laboratories

The future for CSTAR is packed with goals, including setting a solid foundation, minimizing costs, and increasing utilization.

“To run a successful model – for any simulation centre – it’s important to get more people to use it, generate revenue, and keep control of expenses. We’re looking forward to expanding our simulation courses down the road, continuing research in robotics and simulation technology, offering more interprofessional and in-situ training, and answering the simulation demands of all of LHSC, including Victoria Hospital, and the Southwestern Ontario region better than we do today,” says Hunt.

For more information on CSTAR, visit the London Health Sciences website.