Date of Award

Winter 12-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Science Teaching


Wiles, Jason R.


Cardiopulmonary Bypass, Clinical Perfusion, Medical Simulation

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Science and Mathematics Education


Background: The clinical perfusionist is a member of the open-heart-surgery team and responsible for operating the life support equipment that replaces the function of the patient's heart and lungs and arrests and restarts the patient's heart in the course of a Cardiopulmonary Bypass (CPB) procedure. In the perfusionists scope of practice, the consequence of unskilled actions, inaccurate understanding or delayed decision making may result in significant patient morbidity or even death. Historically, perfusion students have learned and practiced their skills within a clinical preceptorship program in which an experienced clinician allows the novice student to operate the life support equipment under their direct supervision and consultation. While there is clinical evidence from numerous surgical specialties which establishes that learning curve associated errors have a negative effect on patient outcomes, this has not been researched for clinical perfusionists. Despite this evidence gap, the professions leaders have been instrumental in driving educational innovation and the development of medical simulation models that may reduce the patient's exposure to learning curve associated morbidity by developing competence with high-risk clinical skills prior to patient contact. The purpose of this research is to develop, validate and apply novel medical simulation techniques and technologies to the preparation of entry level clinical perfusionists and demonstrate pre-clinical competence with the fundamental perfusion skills.Methods and Results: To inform the development of a skills curriculum we conducted two national surveys using online survey tools. Through these surveys we validated a list of fundamental skills, and the deconstructed sub-elements involved in the conduct of these skills. Additionally, we identified the typical ranges of physiologic and technical parameters that clinicians maintain during clinical procedures. With this foundational benchmark data we validated the performance of a simulated patient to establish that the patient surrogate generates data that is substantially similar to the physiologic and technical data that a perfusionist would manage during a live clinical procedure. This validated simulation technology was then incorporated into a high-fidelity simulation suite and applied to an innovative immersive curriculum which included hands on repetitive practice, live and video supported self, peer and expert observation and feedback as well as a battery of high-stakes assessments. The validity and fidelity of the simulated experience was established through analysis of over 800 opinions generated over 10 years by novice and expert perfusionists after performing simulated cases. Finally, the efficacy of the simulation curriculum was assessed by comparing our simulation trained students to a national pool of their peers from other schools and expert clinicians. Through this process we generated the first measurements of the typical learning curve for the fundamental skills of CPB, the first estimates of error rates for students navigating the learning curve and the first benchmark measures of competent performance in a simulated environment. This data establishes that students learning in traditional clinical training programs conduct three-fold more errors than experts and will have approximately 99 high-risk patient encounters prior to developing competence with fundamental skills. By comparison, simulation trained students demonstrated competence with fundamental skills that was similar to the experts with almost no high-risk patient encounters. Discussion: The implications to patient safety are clearly implied. These studies establish that there is a high level of agreement among clinicians regarding the skills that are necessary to operate perfusion equipment and that realistic simulation environments can be designed and applied to the development of student's fundamental perfusion skills without exposing patients to the threat of students learning curve associated errors. This data may catalyze a larger national dialog regarding Entrustable Professional Activities for perfusionists and influence national accreditation standards for educational programs.


Open Access