“In my experience, patients do better when they are well prepared for surgery,” says Dr. Michael Glotzbecker, a pediatric spine specialist and surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, who performs dozens of spinal fusion surgeries each year to treat children with scoliosis.
That’s why Glotzbecker teamed up with Brianna O’Connell, a child life specialist and program lead of simulation programs for patients and caregivers at the Boston Children’s SIMPeds Simulator Program, to create an immersive day for patients and their families to experience spinal fusion well ahead of surgery day.
Many of the children and adolescents who attended the spinal fusion simulation, held in April 2017, have their surgeries scheduled for this summer, during their school break. The simulation included realistic set-ups of the pre-op, operating room, recovery room and inpatient hospital room as well as all the medical equipment and procedures that they will experience during their stay at Boston Children’s and what to expect after discharge home.
“It was a great opportunity to familiarize kids with what they will see and experience on surgery day and beyond, and give them the chance to ask questions about things they may be curious or worried about,” says O’Connell.
Here’s a step-by-step look at what patients and families experienced during the spinal fusion simulation:
“Since opening our Simulation Center in 2016, we have the ability to offer simulation to patients and families,” says Melissa Burke, director of business development at SIMPeds. “We specifically built our first simulation room to have a configuration that mimics a child’s bedroom so that we could improve the confidence of caregivers and patients going home with new medical devices. We hope to provide many other experiential learning opportunities like the spinal fusion simulation in the future.”
Although the spinal fusion simulation was a first-time pilot event, organized by Glotzbecker and O’Connell, they have already received positive feedback from the patients and families who attended. As a result, they hope to host future simulations so that upcoming spinal fusion patients also have the option to “experience” their surgery before the big day arrives.
Update as of June 2018: Since the inaugural spinal fusion simulation event, the Spinal Program has held two additional events in February and April of 2018.
“We try to plan these events during school vacations, that way families won’t have to take their kids out of school,” says O’Connell. “This is all for the patients and their parents, so we do everything we can to accommodate different schedules.”