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Simulating an Early Nineteenth-Century Surgical Operation

This activity, by Andy Harmsworth, helps students to get to grips with the surgery strand of SHP’s development study of medicine. You and your students carry out a short classroom simulation of a surgical operation at the beginning of the 19 th century. The activity is used after studying the development of surgery before 1800. It provides a lively and memorable introduction to a series of lessons on the development of modern surgery. Specifically, the activity and follow-up discussion help pupils to understand:

  • the main features of surgical operations in about 1800
  • why surgery was so dangerous at the time
  • that surgeons were concerned about their patients’ welfare
  • why surgeons in 1800 were able to do so little to deal with the problems of pain, infection and blood loss
  • how much progress has taken place in surgery in the last 200 years

Simulations can be a highly effective way of engaging interest, developing understanding, generating questions and aiding longer-term recall by presenting information in a lively, entertaining and dramatic way. Have fun!