A Review of Innovations in Surgical Education

Dr. Carlos Chacon

October 20, 2022

Art and Science of Surgery

The evolution of surgical education has led to several innovations. This article discusses a few of these innovations, such as Virtual-reality-based training systems, the Delphi method, and online picture diagnosis quizzes. All of these innovations are intended to improve the quality of surgical education and training for both new and experienced surgeons.

Virtual-reality-based training systems

Surgical training is an area that could benefit from the use of VR. With the advancement of virtual reality technologies, training can be individualized, with content developed for virtually any area of expertise or medical device. One such example is Osso VR, which provides surgical training using virtual reality technology.

The development of new surgical technologies and changes in healthcare provision has made it imperative to upgrade our current training systems. By incorporating virtual reality into medical education, we can ensure that our future surgeons are more prepared to deal with the complexities of patient safety. Surgical students need a broad range of training in different disciplines and environments.

Pre-training material

Surgical education is an ongoing process in which students learn through experience. The standard training program comprises two years of classroom teaching and two years of clinical ward work. This training format has stood the test of time, but recent advances in surgical education have reshaped how medical students are trained. For example, the recent development of telehealth allows students to join video conferences with patients and watch procedures performed in the operating room.

The current feedback from medical students and trainees on surgical education during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a variety of changes to the educational process. This systematic review explores the current status of surgical education in the UK and the innovations implemented. It also examines how these innovations have affected student learning and the quality of medical education.

Delphi method

The Delphi method is a validated, rapid method of consensus gathering. It allows participants to agree without being in the same room. It also reduces the risk of groupthink. It does have its limitations, however. Among these is the need to ensure the quality of the expert panel. The Delphi process is most useful when the panelists are well-versed in the surgical specialization they teach.

The Delphi method was used to create a consensus statement describing the essential features of a surgical training program. Since the different surgical specialties differ in soft tissue handling, it isn’t easy to develop cooperative principles based on the varied practices. A group of experts who were experienced in teaching surgical residents were selected to address this problem. Using the Delphi method, they developed cross-specialty consensus statements for evidence-based surgical education.

Blended teaching

Online teaching in surgical postgraduate education is an effective way to impart knowledge to medical students, but it has many limitations. A real-life experience of surgical procedures and interaction with patients is needed to create an active learning experience. Fortunately, blended teaching methods are available to address both of these issues. They combine the best of traditional teaching methods with the advantages of online learning and enable significant collaboration between students.

These technologies have made it possible to create interactive learning models using text on a page and high-fidelity avatars. Virtual reality technology has also advanced rapidly and can be used to create more realistic virtual environments that allow trainees to walk into a clinic and perform relevant tasks. However, before these new technologies are adopted in surgical education, they should be based on critical evidence and educational need.

COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes in surgical education, resulting in a new model of teaching combining traditional classroom and virtual learning. The University of Helsinki, for example, rearranged its undergraduate surgical education program after the pandemic, implementing virtual teaching techniques in multiple ways. Instead of attending a traditional plastic surgery clinical round, students were invited to participate in virtual simulation sessions or “virtual ward” rounds. Medical students welcomed the virtual ward approach, and the University of Helsinki adopted a tailor-made online surgical platform for virtual learning. This learning platform allowed students to take quizzes before their written examination, improving their knowledge and skills.

While the traditional classroom remains the most robust method of surgical education, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many innovative solutions to improve the delivery of surgical education. The flipped classroom model, for example, combines traditional classroom teaching methods with online resources to deliver theoretical background information. Both medical students and residents increasingly accept the video-based virtual education model. In addition to case preparation, online video platforms are also used to teach surgical procedures.

Need for high-quality, accessible mental models

Mental models are essential for learning in the medical field, but they can be challenging to create. They can be complex, and their quality depends on the knowledge and experience of the individual making them. They comprise core and peripheral beliefs and are helpful in a specific context. Many people across cultures and subgroups can also share mental models.

Mental models play a crucial role in determining how people accept new information. For example, a diagnostic label can trigger broad mental models, leading to expectations about the treatment and progression of the disease. This creates communication problems. For example, a physician may recommend active surveillance in stage 0 breast cancer when a patient may feel uncomfortable with the idea.