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J Surg Educ. 2018 Jan - Feb;75(1):14-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2017.06.013. Epub 2017 Jul 13.

The Role of the Operating Room in Medical Student Education: Differing Perspectives of Learners and Educators.

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Department of Surgery, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.
Department of Surgery, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey. Electronic address:



The surgical clerkship is an integral part of third-year medical student education. The operating room (OR) is a heavily used setting, but it is unclear whether this setting is as effective as possible. To determine the role of the OR and potential improvements, it is necessary to analyze the perspectives of those involved, including surgeons, residents, and medical students.


An electronic survey was distributed to the surgeons, surgical residents, and third-year medical students associated with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. The questions were a combination of 5-point Likert scale questions and qualitative responses. The questions assessed the role of the OR, the information taught in the OR, the quality of the teaching and environment, and potential improvements.


Attending surgeons and residents generally rated the OR more positively than medical students did. Medical students desired more hands-on participation and a greater focus on learning technical skills. In addition, most medical students rated the feedback and direct instruction in the OR as "poor." Furthermore, the attending surgeons and medical students disagreed about the main roles of the OR as well as the effectiveness of teaching in the OR. The medical students reported experiencing anxiety and intimidation in the OR and suggested several improvements, such as decreasing the length of the surgical clerkship.


There is significant disagreement between the surgeons and residents and the medical students regarding the roles and effectiveness of learning in the OR. This may help explain the reported medical student dissatisfaction and frustrations with the surgical clerkship.


Medical Knowledge; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; medical student education; operating room; surgical clerkship; survey

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