Five Video Games That Simulate What It's Like to Be a Surgical Technologist

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Lists!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 11:00 am
By Greg Voakes

Your parents might have written off video games as just a useless waste of time that can only teach you about the medical profession by showing you just how many brain cells the human mind can lose in a day. However, thanks to recent advancements in graphics, gameplay and interactivity, even the smallest and least powerful consoles and home computers can accurately depict what it's like to work in the OR or the ER as a paramedic, nurse or surgical technologist.

1. Emergency Room: Real Life Rescues for Nintendo DS

The hardest part of any simulation game is immersion, making the player feel as though they are doing more than just pushing buttons or sliding around a cursor on a pixelated screen. This title uses the DS's touch screen controls to simulate what it's like for a responding paramedic or a hospital surgical technologist to prep patients for major surgery in emergency situations from simple abrasions and accidents to serious stab wounds and cardiac events. The game makes the player responsible for almost every step of the response from monitoring the patient's heart condition to removing foreign objects with skill and dexterity. The scenarios are also based on real-life paramedics' experiences responding to such serious, life-threatening emergencies. 

2. Life and Death for PC

This title might be from the very back of the gaming timeline, but it's one of the more advanced simulation games of the medical profession. This title from the late 80s thoroughly puts players through the surgical process from the cutting done by the surgeon to the scrubbing up with their surgical technologist as they treat everything from simple appendectomies to complex aortic aneurysms. It's very technical for something that seems as unremarkable as a simulation game title and leaves it up to the player to learn the proper process and techniques to complete their medical goals. It doesn't use mini-games to help the player save the patient. The player has to do everything on their own from the first cut to the final staple.

3. Lifesigns: Surgical Unit for Nintendo DS

Some day, all surgeons and surgical technologists will be trained with the kind of technology we use to play simple video games. Finally, one title has helped mankind make its first momentous steps in that direction. This Nintendo DS touchscreen title does a nice thorough job of explaining each step of simple to complex procedures with a kind of mellow anime style that heightens the tension of serious medical operations without going too over the top like a hyperactive Pokemon episode with exposed gallbladders. It also requires a very precise hand to complete each procedure and does a great job of explaining the necessary steps of the procedure as well as the human anatomy and instruments used in each level.

4. Trauma Center: Second Opinion for the Nintendo Wii

Of course, just moving a stylus around a touchscreen isn't very immersing. It might be good for learning the basic parts but it doesn't put you into the action. Dust off your Nintendo Wii because this title actually has you perform complex surgeries with full motion control. It's another anime inspired style medical game that keeps the focus on medical procedures but uses the Wii's full motion controls to complete each task from sewing up patients once a surgery has been done to removing tumors and rebuilding vital organs. And if that's not immersing enough for the budding medical student inside of you, they also come with optional surgical controller add-ons that can make the experience feel even more like the real thing.

5. Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon for iPhone and iPad

Even the most skilled surgeon can't be the best if they can't be resourceful and perform in the most dire situations without traditional equipment. This game from Cartoon Network's cult "Adult Swim" games department put you in the shoes of a down on his luck pizza guy who aspires to become a world class surgeon but without medical school getting in the way of his dream. Instead, he r uns into a former surgery giant (or rather, runs over) and has to perform emergency surgery on him while he's still bleeding in the street. The surgeon is grateful and helps Alan achieve his dream with the use of less traditional instruments such as a pizza cutter/scalpel, lighter/suture and desk stapler/skin stapler.
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