Surgical trainees, (interns, residents, and fellows), are responsible for taking care of patients and participating in their surgeries in an apprenticeship training model. The cases a resident participates in are typically dictated by the schedule of the attending they are assigned to be assisting. It is not uncommon for them to be relegated to holding retractors, or just watching, depending on their level of seniority, and from time to time, take the lead in certain key parts of a case.
The opportunities for hands-on experience and practice for trainees is decreasing for many reasons:
Another groundbreaking study measured the ability of residents to operate autonomously throughout their training up until graduation. At the time of graduation, about 30% of residents were still unable to operate independently.
This phenomenon is leading to a cycle in which these young, undertrained attending surgeons are still spending their time training themselves instead of operating at a level where they can train the next round of young residents counting on their coaching and education.
Another study examines the effectiveness of traditional training methods for new procedures like robotic surgery, and its findings support the notion that these new advancements offer limited engagement opportunities for learning surgeons. It found robotic surgery greatly limited the trainees’ role in the work, making approved methods of training ineffective. This leads to a lack of engagement and participation that results in residents graduating with very little if any, actual hands-on experience.
How do we solve this? Through making the time for meaningful training. Many traditional training methods can be difficult to schedule or costly to run. However, new technology and tools, such as virtual reality, have the ability to be taken anywhere with an infinite number of runs per resident, allowing trainees to practice as much as they need.
To learn more about the power of virtual reality for surgical training, click here.