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J Surg Educ. 2014 Nov-Dec;71(6):817-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2014.04.011. Epub 2014 Jun 13.

Do medical students in the operating room affect patient care? An analysis of one institution's experience over the past five years.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 2Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. Electronic address:



Medical students are active learners in operating rooms during medical school. This observational study seeks to investigate the effect of medical students on operative time and complications.


Data from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program was linked to operative records for nonemergent, inpatient general surgery cases at our institution from 1 January 2009 to 1 January 2013. Cases were grouped into 13 distinct procedure groups. Hospital records provided information on the presence of medical students. Demographics, comorbidities, intraoperative variables, and postoperative complications were analyzed.


Overall, 2481 cases were included. Controlling for wound class, procedure group, and surgeon, medical students were associated with an additional 14 minutes of operative time. No association between medical students and postoperative complications was observed.


The educational benefits gained by the presence of medical students do not appear to jeopardize the quality of patient care.

Copyright © 2014 Association of Program Directors in Surgery. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Patient Care; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; Systems-Based Practice; medical students; operating rooms; operative time; postoperative complications; university hospitals

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