Send to

Choose Destination
J Surg Educ. 2008 Jul-Aug;65(4):275-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2008.04.002.

Operating room assist: surgical mentorship and operating room experience for preclerkship medical students.

Author information

School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94122, USA.



Despite the importance of preclerkship experiences, surgical education has essentially remained confined to the third-year operating room experience. According to experience-based learning theory, the acquisition of new clinical knowledge is a dynamic process of social enculturation and professional identity development that requires active participation, clinical applicability, and direct interaction with doctors and other members of the medical team. In conjunction with a previously described surgical skills elective, we created a new clinical elective in which preclerkship medical students were assigned a surgical mentor and invited into the operating room to assist in surgeries.


The elective paired 36 first-year students with 24 surgeons and instructed students to participate in at least 2 surgeries over the 3-month elective period. Students, surgeons, and operating room nurses filled out questionnaires after each surgery.


Although 6 students failed to enter the operating room, 30 students scrubbed and gowned for a total of 62 procedures during the elective period. Although most students reported the operating room to be a comfortable learning environment in which they were actively included, students consistently underrated their performance and contribution to the surgical team compared with the surgeons' and nurses' ratings. With 75% of students who reported using a previously learned surgical skill during each surgery, this elective succeeded in allowing preclerkship medical students the opportunity to participate actively in the operating room.


Early surgical exposure is critical for attracting student interest in careers in surgery. We believe that these early clinical experiences, combined with strong mentorship from the surgical faculty, will eventually lead to greater success during clerkships and greater interest in surgery as a career.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center