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Dedicated skills courses may help to prepare 4th-year medical students for surgical internships. The purpose of this study was to analyze the factors that influence the preparedness of 4th-year medical students planning a surgical career, and the role that our skills course plays in that preparedness.
A comprehensive skills course for senior medical students matching in a surgical specialty was conducted each spring from 2006 through 2009. Students were surveyed for background skills, clerkship experience, and skills confidence levels (1-5 Likert scale). Assessment included 5 suturing and knot-tying tasks pre- and postcourse and a written examination. Data are presented as mean values +/- standard deviations; statistical analyses were by 2-tailed t test, linear regression, and analysis of variance.
Sixty-five 4th-year students were enrolled; most common specialties were general surgery (n = 22) and orthopedics (n = 16). Thirty-five students were elite musicians (n = 16) or athletes (n = 19) and 8 regular videogamers. Suturing task times improved significantly from pre- to postcourse for all 5 tasks (total task times pre, 805 +/- 202 versus post, 627 +/- 168 seconds [P < .0001]) as did confidence levels for 8 skills categories, including management of on-call problems (P < .05). Written final examination proficiency (score >/=70%) was achieved by 81% of students. Total night call experience 3rd year was 23.3 +/- 10.7 nights (7.3 +/- 4.3 surgical call) and 4th year 10.5 +/- 7.4 nights (7.2 +/- 6.8 surgical call). Precourse background variables significantly associated with outcome measures were athletics with precourse suturing and 1-handed knot tying (P < .05); general surgery specialty and instrument tying (P = .012); suturing confidence levels and precourse suturing and total task times (P = .024); and number of nonsurgical call nights with confidence in managing acute on-call problems (P = .028). No significant correlation was found between these variables and postcourse performance.
Completion of an accelerated skills course results in comparable levels of student performance postcourse across a variety of preclinical backgrounds and clerkship experiences.
Department of Surgery and Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.
This article was published in the following journal.
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