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ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 28  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22-28

The operating theatre as classroom: A qualitative study of learning and teaching surgical competencies


1 Department of Surgery, Peninsula Health, Frankston, Australia
2 School of Rural Health, Health PEER, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Violet Kieu
Department of Surgery, Peninsula Health, 2 Hastings Road, Frankston VIC 3199
Australia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.161845

Background: There has been a worldwide movement toward competency-based medical education and training. However, this is the first qualitative study to analyze the perceptions of surgical trainees and surgeons toward competency-based education in the operating theatre. We aim to examine views toward the specific learning and teaching of the nine competencies of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and to explore perceived ideal conditions and challenges for learning and teaching these competencies in the operating theatre. Methods: Individual semi-structured interviews with surgical trainees and surgeons in the specialty of General Surgery. Ten surgical trainees and surgeons who worked together were purposively sampled, for maximum variation, from an outer metropolitan public hospital in Melbourne, Australia, to identify emergent themes relating to learning and teaching surgical competencies in the operating theatre. Results: Five themes were identified as: (1) Learning and teaching specific surgical competencies is through relationship based mentoring and experiential learning; (2) Ideal conditions and challenges in the operating theatre are availability of time and personal attitude; (3) Level of pre-operative briefing was variable; (4) Intra-operative teaching is perceived as structured; and, (5) Post-operative debriefing is recognized as ideal but not consistently performed. Discussion: Professional relationships are important to both surgical trainees and surgeons in the process of learning and teaching competencies. Ad hoc apprenticeship style learning is perceived to remain prominent in the operating theatre. Sufficient time for training is valued by both groups. The surgical competencies are inherently different to each other. Some appear more difficult to learn and teach in the operating theatre, with technical expertise most readily identified and health advocacy least so. Elements of guided discovery learning and other educational models are described. Further emphasis on structured competency-based teaching methods may be beneficial for surgical trainees, surgeons and other specialties, both in Australia and worldwide.


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