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Researchers say trainee surgeons need more feedback

Before surgeons can perform operations on real patients in North Carolina hospitals, they must undergo years of training with cadavers. During this training, residents might commit any number of egregious errors such as severing a pretend patient's blood vessel or nerve. Learning from the errors that are made on cadavers helps trainees to develop the skills they will need to perform real surgeries later on.

John Hopkins researchers have conducted a small study on surgical training to determine the most effective way to assess students' operating skills. Researchers found that students received more helpful feedback when they were rated based on step-by-step checklists of specific tasks. Currently, surgical training models usually rate students based on how many procedures they have performed, not how well they have completed them.

One of the authors of the report said that the current system for training surgeons allows their mistakes to remain uncorrected. Feedback about mistakes or motor skills is rarely provided, and resident surgeons are now training for fewer hours thanks to new caps on work hours. In the study, researchers found that using the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills and the Global Rating Scale provided more valuable feedback than the pass/fail system.

When a patient has a poor outcome after surgery, the patient's family may want to look into the possibility that surgical errors were made. An attorney can investigate hospital records and obtain the opinions of medical experts in order to determine if there was a failure by the practitioner or facility to exhibit the requisite standard of care.

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