With advancements in surgical techniques, patients have experienced improvements in health and recovery outcomes. However, about 87% of laparoscopic surgeons [1] and an increasing number of surveyed allied health professionals [2, 3] report musculoskeletal symptoms. Medical practitioners and human factors engineers have highlighted the “hostile” and “dangerous” operating room (OR) environment [1, 4, 5]. With increasing technology and surgical case complexity, physical demands for surgical team members will continue to increase due to circumstances such as technology restricting posture, taking up working space and more team members working around smaller surgical incisions [6]. There is widespread concern that these medical professionals’ work is unsustainable for safe and healthy patients and surgical team members.

Surgical team members can benefit from posture improvement during surgery; however, direct postural feedback may be difficult during their work due to the high visual and auditory stimuli during surgery. The tactile modality has been recently explored as a method to provide additional information without interfering with cognitive resources dedicated to visual and auditory pathways [7]. Tactile devices have successfully been implemented in high-stress environments, e.g., military, healthcare, and rehabilitation with a resulting improvement in performance [8–11]. Vibrotactile feedback has been specifically implemented in the healthcare field for improved performance by 31–75% anesthesiologists during simulated tasks [10]. Additionally, it has contributed to improved postural control in rehabilitation patients[11]. Despite success in other application areas, the potential of tactile devices for improving healthcare workers’ safety and performance remains unexplored. This study is a part of a larger project to design a wearable device that provides realtime vibrotactile feedback for preventing fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders for healthcare workers in the workplace.

This specific aim of this study is to measure distraction, frustration, and performance during a surgical simulation task performed with and without vibrotactile feedback. This is a test of initial feasibility of vibrotactile feedback for use in training proper ergonomics for surgical team members. The researchers hypothesize that there will be some distraction with the vibrotactile feedback wearable but no frustration or performance degradation during the basic simulation task.

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