‘Task Trainers’ creating medical community collaboration in Wichita, improving residents' skills

As part of their future careers, Ascension Via Christi Family Medicine Residents must master the art of suturing various types and degrees of lacerations.

Hence, a new collaboration between the University of Kansas School of Medicine Surgical Residency and University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita Family Medicine Residency Program at Ascension Via Christi for both simple and complex suturing practice and biopsy training.

“The current market for suture practice tools and trainers normally used for teaching these skills are seriously lacking in their ability to replicate a real-life situation,” says Joseph Crain, the resident surgical skills lab coordinator and manager at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, based at Ascension Via Christi.

Crain states that virtually all health and medical trainers on the market are less than realistic and are grossly overpriced which is what has led him to design, develop and create his own line of “Task Trainers.”

A sampling of these include deluxe suture pads, and punch biopsy trainers with simulated moles and tumors. Due to the nature of the work required in making these trainers, including noise and fumes, Crain said that they are restricted from manufacturing these items in the hospital itself. To facilitate this project, KU has rented space from MakeICT – an arts and craft hobbyist space in Southeast Wichita.

“There are complexities involved that often require multiple sets of hands” says Crain. He is assisted by a volunteer – Monica Mitchell, who also has a degree in the field. Ms. Mitchell is a former student that was in the program that Crain taught in healthcare simulation. The program was originally established at WSU Tech.

“Everything we make is designed to replicate reality,” says Crain, who has been helping improve educational experiences in surgical simulations at KU since January of 2020.

Crain and his team can create 10 suture pads and 10 punch biopsy pads in one day. The pads are made of a thick, skin-like texture and have a non-slip bottom.

“What’s available now isn’t self-healing, doesn't replicate skin and is difficult to work with because they simply don’t stick to a surface,” says Crain.

The KU Surgical Residency program recently donated 36 Task Trainers, enough for every Family Medicine resident to have their own to practice with.

“The residents said the trainers were as close to skin as they had ever seen and that it helped them effectively correct and master their technique,” says Amy Curry, MD, clinical associate professor of the Family Medicine program.

Crain is now looking to expand the line to include trainers that replicate deeper, more complicated suture procedures, incision and drainage trainers, and various types of wounds.

“We have been tasked with creating full mannequins for surgery and anatomically correct female parts so our OB/GYN and Family Medicine residents can practice suturing of episiotomies and deep tears in that tissue,'' says Crain.

“The Task Trainers can be custom designed and built at half the cost of their retail prices, with a much higher level of fidelity,” says Crain.

The Task Trainers are just one way to connect residents of all specialties together.

“The surgery department seeks to foster interdisciplinary collegiality by collaborating with other departments such as Family Medicine, OB/GYN, Anesthesia, Internal Medicine, medical students, nursing, and allied health, to develop interprofessional training opportunities” says Crain. “The task trainers go a long way in building confidence in the residents’ skills for their future patients’ benefit.”

Marilee McBoyle, MD, clinical professor of Surgery at the University of Kansas and medical director of Ascension Via Christi’s Wound and Hyperbaric Therapy Center, says the trainers are already making a lasting impact.

"The collaboration happening here is a true commitment to bettering the skills of our residents and, in turn, helps ensure quality care for their patients for years to come," says Dr. McBoyle.