Performance and learning curve of a surgical care practitioner in completing hip aspirations

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The roles of non-medically trained practitioners within the NHS are expanding; they are now being employed by many specialties, including surgery, to relieve pressures on healthcare teams.


To investigate the learning curve and competence of an orthopaedic surgical care practitioner (SCP) in performing hip aspirations.


Data were retrospectively collected on 510 orthopaedic hip aspirations, of which 360 were completed by a single SCP and 150 were completed by surgeons before the SCP took over routine aspiration. The 360 aspirations completed by an SCP were separated into groups of 30 by date, so any trend in failure rate could be analysed. Ordinal χ2 analysis was used to analyse this trend and Pearson χ2 analysis was used to analyse differences in failure rates between professionals.


The hip aspiration failure rate for the SCP was significantly lower than for the surgeons; 8.6% vs 20.7% (P<0.001). With the experience gained in completing the first 210 procedures, the failure rate of the SCP dropped to 3.3% for the remaining 150 procedures. This downward trend in hip aspiration failure rate, with advancing experience of the SCP, was shown to be statistically significant (P=0.006).


SCPs who complete hip aspirations on a regular basis have significantly lower failure rates than surgeons, probably as a result of the learning curve, which this study demonstrated. Other trusts should consider delegating routine hip aspiration work to a designated SCP to lower failure rates.

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