Theodoric of York: On Medical Simulation Training of Olde


First Posted at Educate the Young on 4/30/2014

Theodoric of York StillshotFor those old enough to remember Saturday Night Live during the Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner days…you may also remember the recurring character,Theodoric of York: The Medieval Barber, played by Steve Martin, fresh off his King Tut tour. Martin’s “medieval barber” was the town physician, who gave the phrase ‘practicing medicine’ new meaning (click here for a blast from the past). As one of Theodoric’s experimental treatments after another failed to heal a trusting citizen-character, he good-naturedly said:

…unfortunately, we barbers are not Gods. You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we’re learning all the time. Why just 50 years ago we would’ve thought your daughter’s illness was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But now a days, we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors. Perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach…

…Perhaps I’ve been wrong to blindly follow the traditions and superstitions of the past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test those assumptions analytically. To experimentation and scientific method. Perhaps this scientific method could be extended to other fields of learning. Like natural sciences, art, architecture, navigation, perhaps I could lead the way to a new age. An age of rebirth. A Renaissance!


Whether or not these talented, SNL comedy sketch writers of the 70s knew how close to medical training they might be hitting, we would all like to trust that our own medieval barber of today has a few more practice rounds under his/her belt before taking one’s skills to the streets. Thanks to medical simulation training of today, an increasing number of resident physicians, medical and nursing students have already perfected their skills on life-like practice dummies that talk and bleed with unsettling realism before practicing on patients–a practice all too common not very long ago. Not surprising that medical education would eventually catch up to the bar being set by the special effects capabilities of Hollywood action films, trainees who experience modern-day medical simulation will tell you how real some of these manufactured medical crises feel.

Stay tuned for stories from the front lines of care on how medical simulation training can positively influence both patient and caregiver safety.

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Tracy Granzyk MS is Managing Editor for Educate the Young, and a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in healthcare, wellness and sport. She spent 15 years in sales, marketing and global strategy in the biotech industry, and joined Dr. Mayer in 2008 as a writer on the award-winning Transparent Health film series where a passion for patient safety took hold. With a graduate degree in sport psychology and an undergraduate degree in non-fiction writing, Tracy is well-positioned to take complex science and healthcare information and share it in a narrative form that resonates with audiences coming from all sides of healthcare. Her insatiable quest for acquiring and sharing knowledge in innovative ways via social and digital media has led to a greater understanding of where technology can take healthcare. As such, her research has most recently been focused in education technology, serious games/simulation, and storytelling.