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J Surg Res. 2007 Oct;142(2):287-94. Epub 2007 Jul 19.

A surgical skills elective to expose preclinical medical students to surgery.

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  • 1School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-1674, USA.



Early introduction to surgical skills may serve several valuable purposes; medical students will acquire skills that will reduce their anxiety in approaching clerkships and improve the quality of patient care, and they will possibly become interested in surgery as a career.


We designed an elective called "OR assist" for first and second year medical students based on needs identified from the literature and third year students. The elective comprised three sessions for a total of 6 hours and included instruction in surgical skills and operating room etiquette. We surveyed the students before and after the experience and also surveyed a group of control students. We assessed confidence in surgical skills and OR etiquette and concerns about surgical lifestyle, environment, and enthusiasm.


Eight-six students participated and generally had some operating room experience. The 75 students with pre/post match data reported significant improvement in confidence in suturing, knots, and instrumentation (P < 0.001; effect sizes >1.0) and less concern about issues related to enthusiasm for surgery (P < 0.001; effect size = 0.5). The participants and controls did not differ at baseline except for identification of surgical instruments, which was higher for participants. After the experience, the participants were significantly more confident and had less concern about enthusiasm in surgery than the controls.


An elective can be effective in improving students' confidence and reducing their concerns about surgery as a career. This is a unique opportunity for early exposure to surgical role models.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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