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ANZ J Surg. 2009 Mar;79(3):108-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.2008.04824.x.

Role and feasibility of psychomotor and dexterity testing in selection for surgical training.

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National Surgical Training Centre, Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, UK.


The practice of Surgery has undergone major changes in the past 20 years and this is likely to continue. Knowledge, judgement and good technical skills will no longer be enough to safely practice surgery and interventional procedures. Fundamental abilities (e.g. psychomotor skills, visuospatial ability and depth perception) are critically important for catheter-based interventions, NOTES, robotic surgery and other procedural interventions of the future. Not all individuals possess the same amount of these innate fundamental abilities and those less endowed are likely to struggle during surgical training and thereafter in surgical practice. In contrast to other high-skill professions/industries (e.g. aviation) we do not have a tradition of testing prospective surgical trainees for abilities/attributes that we now recognize as being important for surgical practice. Instead, we continue to rely on surrogate markers of future potential (e.g. academic record). However, many studies have shown that psychomotor ability is an important predictor of both learning rate and performance for complex laparoscopic tasks. Psychomotor skills, visuospatial ability and depth perception can all be tested objectively by validated tests. At the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, all short-listed candidates for Higher Surgical Training now undergo formal testing of both technical skills and fundamental abilities (psychomotor skills, visuospatial ability and depth perception). Reports on each candidate's performance are supplied to the interview committee. Furthermore, a prospective database is being kept for correlation with future surgical performance. We believe that selection into surgical training should take account of attributes that we know are important for safe and efficient surgical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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