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HELIOS hospital group, Germany

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The HELIOS group of clinics puts a lot of emphasis on a solid and high quality medical education. Therefore, they started an educational initiative in 2011. One of the main goals was to optimally prepare young surgeons for their first endoscopic procedures via training on a virtual reality simulator. Since the introduction of simulation training, it has become mandatory and an inherent part of education and advanced training of all medical personnel.


Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Gralf Popken, M.D.

Dr. med. Gralf Popken is Head Physician at the clinic of urology and Head of the prostate center at the HELIOS clinic Berlin-Buch

The section urology has studied the possibilities of simulation in transurethral surgery since autumn 2010. We have tested different systems and then voted in favor of this simulator. We recommend the integration of simulation in the first and continuing education of urologists in the HELIOS group. We also consider the documented completion of a minimum number of simulated procedures as useful before any real intervention. Simulated procedures can be done locally, regional and central via self study or in courses. This makes sense to ensure an optimal utilization of the simulators. Other sections participating in this program is realistic and reasonable.

Dr. Popken, how many young surgeons do you train per year?

At the HELIOS clinic Berlin-Buch we have six residents in different stages of their education. In addition, every staff member has the obligation to participate in at least one personal and medical continuing education per year. Since the introduction of simulation training it has become mandatory and an inherent part of the first and continuing education of all medical staff.

Which skills can physicians acquire on simulators that they can put to good use later on in the operating room, on a real patient?

All of them!! The technique, a structured approach, as well as the enhancement of every operational step shouldn't be learned on the patient, but can now be trained on a simulator. One big difference to traditional training methods is that surgeons learn surgical techniques much faster and with less complications.

The fight for talent doesn't stop in the medical field. What can you offer young physicians that others maybe don't?

We offer our concept for education and continuing medical training that we are convinced of. This includes the measures stated above, and also takes into account the personal development of each resident. Surgeons in training give us positive feedback on the modern simulation training - without exceptions.

You are part of the development of a new TURB module for your simulators, for the removal of bladder tumors. What do you expect from it?

I expect the same effect that the TURP module had: fast, effective and safe training for a surgical procedure, BEFORE a physician in training goes into the OR to do surgery on a real patient.

There will be a version with active tactile feedback for the laser enucleation simulator soon. How valuable will this be in your opinion? 

For doing surgery and handle natural tissue, haptics and tactile feedback are essential for success. It doesn't only matter what you see and hear, but also what you feel. These complex factors are one of the reasons for long and very individual learning curves. Adding tactile feedback to simulation training will be a huge enhancement.

How does surgical education look like in your ideal world?

Every procedure can be simulated with numerous levels of difficulty. As in real life surgery, the trainer and experienced physician can correct the trainee directly and smooth - just like in driving school.


Would you like to read the entire story of the HELIOS group?
HELIOS story in English (PDF)

Sie möchten die komplette Geschichte der HELIOS Kliniken auf deutsch lesen?
HELIOS story in German (PDF)