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Med Educ. 2001 Sep;35(9):909-15.

Surgical skills training: simulation and multimedia combined.

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Department of Medical Sciences, University of Bath, UK.



Basic surgical skills are needed throughout the medical profession, but current training is haphazard and unpredictable. There is increasing pressure to provide transparency about training and performance standards. There is a clear need for inexperienced learners to build a framework of basic skills before carrying out surgical procedures on patients. Effective learning of a skill requires sustained deliberate practice within a cognitive framework, and simulation offers an opportunity for safe preparation.


This paper presents a new approach to basic surgical skills training, where tuition using a specially designed computer program is combined with structured practice using simulated tissue models. This approach to teaching has evolved from practical experience with surgical skills training in workshops.


Pilot studies with 72 first-year medical students highlighted the need for separate programs for teaching and for self-directed learning. The authors developed a training approach in the light of this experience. Subsequent in-depth observational and interview studies examined (a) individual teaching sessions between surgical teachers and learners (five consultant surgeons and five senior house officers) and (b) group teaching sessions with general practitioners (14 participants in three group interviews). Further work has resulted in a self-directed learning program.


Qualitative analysis of observational and interview data provides strong preliminary support for the effectiveness of this approach. The response of teachers and learners was extremely positive. The combination of information (presented by computer) and practice of psychomotor skill (using simulated tissue models) could be extended to other surgical and practical skills.

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