Critical Analysis of a Trauma Fellowship-Modeled, Six-Year Orthopaedic Surgery Training Program

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Background:Work-hour restrictions and increased supervision requirements have altered the clinical experience of orthopaedic surgery residents, while the specialty’s body of knowledge and requisite skill set continue to expand. This dilemma means that the duration and practice experience of the traditional orthopaedic residency may not meet the needs of today’s trainees. For the past eighteen years, however, residency training in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Brown University has included a mandatory postgraduate year six (PGY6) trauma fellowship-modeled year, during which trainees are conferred full staff admitting and operating privileges, with time allotted for completing research. They are supervised by senior attending staff, with increasing autonomy as the year progresses. A formal, critical analysis of this transition-to-practice training model in orthopaedics has not previously been described.Methods:An anonymous thirty-one-item questionnaire was distributed to all practicing graduates of the six-year Brown University Orthopaedic Surgery training program (n = 69). A 5-point Likert scale was used to assess attitudinal questions. An independent-sample t test was used to compare the responses of pre-duty-hour trainees with those of post-duty-hour trainees, with a p value of <0.05 utilized for significance.Results:All sixty-nine practicing graduates of the Brown University PGY6 trauma fellowship completed the survey (100% response rate). Most graduates (78.2%) would choose to complete the PGY6 year if they had to do residency again, and 72.4% would recommend trauma fellowship-modeled training to residents beginning their training. Trainees who completed residency during or after the imposed 2003 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education duty-hour restrictions (79.3%) were significantly more likely (p = 0.014) to rank the PGY6 year as their most valuable training year compared with trainees who completed residency prior to duty-hour restrictions (50.0%). Nearly half of the graduates (46.4%) thought that the PGY6 fellowship year was financially burdensome.Conclusions:The unique trauma fellowship-modeled sixth year of orthopaedic surgery training at Brown University was thought to be a valuable training experience by a large majority of graduates, although nearly half thought that the year was financially burdensome. These data suggest that a trauma fellowship-based sixth year of independent yet structured training has the potential to enhance orthopaedic education and could become an alternative standard given the current requirements imposed upon surgical residency training. These results may help guide further discussion among orthopaedic training programs to determine the optimal model for orthopaedic residency education in the twenty-first century.

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