Medical students usually sharpen their skills on cadavers or animals, a far cry from the high stakes drama in a real operating room.
Now, in a scene that sounds straight out of a science fiction movie, students at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston are operating on robots. It's the closest thing to performing real operations on human patients, and it's revolutionizing the way these burgeoning doctors learn about medicine.
"What this does is allow people to really check their skills at the door, make sure they really know everything they need to know, to make sure they're skilled help," said Dr. Dan Jones. "This is a big advance in patient safety."
ABC's Sam Champion donned gloves and scrubs to remove a gallbladder using the new technology. Almost the whole lesson was computerized, with high-tech screens, interactive software and microscopic cameras.
"What you'll be doing here is completely in virtual reality, so there is no real gallbladder, there's no real patient to harm," Dr. Ben Schneider told Champion.
Champion was able to practice twice, just long enough to get the hang of it. As he stepped up to the operating table, technicians were in the control room creating conditions to make the surgery look real.
Then Champion got down to business.
He first filled the "body" with carbon dioxide to create a space around the organs inside. The procedure moved along fine until the patient started showing signs of excess bleeding. In order to save the patient, Champion and his team of doctors were forced to cut the body open.
They discovered that Champion's first step -- a failed injection -- caused the crisis.
Like all students, Champion got a postsurgery debrief. Though he flubbed up part of the operation, the consequences weren't catastrophic.
"Your patient lived and you did an excellent job!" a doctor told him.