Impact of Simulation Training on Core Skill Competency of Undergraduate Medical Students

Congratulations to the team behind the paper published in the Journal of Surgical Education, titled 'Impact of Simulation Training on Core Skill Competency of Undergraduate Medical Students'.

All authors are involved with the UCD School of Medicine and most work within the Department of Surgery at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital:

Cathleen A McCarrick MB, BAO, BCh, MCh; Alice Moynihan MB, BAO, BCh; Mohammad Faraz Khan MB, BAO, BCh, MSc; Finbar Lennon FRCS; Maurice Stokes FRCS; Suzanne Donnelly MD; Helen Heneghan PhD, FRCS; Ronan A Cahill PhD, FRCS. 

Research Highlights

  • Surgical education for undergraduate students through simulation is an effective teaching methodology resulting in improved exam scores.
  • Simulation teaching cultivates communication and empathy skills in undergraduate students.
  • Simulation teaching should form a strong component in surgical curricula.
  • Simulation teaching fosters teamwork. 


Simulation based medical training (SBMT) is gaining traction for undergraduate learning and development. We designed, implemented, and independently assessed the impact of an SBMT programme on competency in surgical history taking and clinical examination for senior clinical students.


With institutional ethical approval and initial pilot study of student volunteers that ensured format appropriateness, we implemented an SBMT programme weekly for ten weeks during the core surgery module of our Medicine degree programme. Groups of 5 students collaboratively undertook an observed focused history and physical examination while simultaneously directing care on a simulated surgical patient (actor) with acute abdominal pain. This was conducted in a nonclinical, standardised, tutor-supervised environment and followed by a group debriefing led by both the simulated patient and tutor discussing student interaction and competency. All students undertook Southampton Medical Assessment Tool (SMAT) on a surgical inpatient prior to (baseline) and within 2 weeks after SBMT. Students without simulation training functioned as a control group and randomized cluster sampling was utilised for group selection. Second assessments were by independent surgical academics blinded to student group. Feedback was collected via anonymous questionnaire from those who undertook SBMT.


One hundred students took part, fifty of whom undertook SBMT. Global mean SMAT scores were similar between the control and intervention group at baseline (p > 0.05). Scores on the second assessment were significantly higher (p = 0.0006) for those who had undertaken SBMT vs. controls; 94% of students taking SBMT reported benefit via questionnaire with 85% stating increased confidence in history-taking and 78% reporting improved abdominal examination.


Undergraduate simulation training at scale is feasible and positively impacts undergraduate student core task competency.

Read the full paper here.