A Survey of Resident Perspectives on Surgical Case Minimums and the Impact on Milestones, Graduation, Credentialing, and Preparation for Practice: AOA Critical Issues

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Residency education continues to evolve. Several major changes have occurred in the past several years, including emphasis on core competencies, duty-hour restrictions, and call. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Next Accreditation System (NAS) implemented educational milestones in orthopaedic surgery in July 2013. Additionally, the Residency Review Committee for orthopaedic surgery published suggested surgical case minimums in 2012, which overlap with several of the milestones.

We conducted a survey to assess the opinions of orthopaedic residents regarding the ACGME-suggested surgical case minimums and the effects that these may have on resident education and potential future privileges in hospitals. The survey was sent via e-mail to all of the residents participating in the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) Resident Leadership Forum for both 2011 and 2012. Participants in the Resident Leadership Forum are in either postgraduate year 4 or postgraduate year 5, are selected by the program directors as resident leaders, and represent 80% of the orthopaedic residency programs in the United States. The survey was completed by 157 of the 314 participants. Sixty-nine percent of the participants believed that case logs with minimum numbers of surgical procedures were an effective way to monitor the work but were not necessarily the only way to monitor the educational progress of the residents. Thirty-two percent believed that the minimums should not be required. Overwhelmingly, there was agreement that important cases were missing from the currently proposed sixteen core surgical minimums. Specifically, the residents believed that a minimum number of cases are necessary for distal radial fracture fixation and proximal humeral fracture fixation and possibly have a milestone to reflect the progress of the residents for each fixation.

Most residents thought that surgical case minimums are an effective tool in monitoring the progress of residents and measuring the effectiveness of residency programs. However, the surgical ability of an individual resident should not be evaluated on case minimums alone. The development of the milestones to assess competency should continue, but, as surgical skill is not a specific core competency, perhaps other methods for assessing surgical proficiency need to be developed rather than case minimums. Surgical skills laboratories and proctoring residents independently performing procedures may help to assess surgical proficiency, in addition to traditional faculty and 360° evaluations. Combining these types of assessments with surgical case logs documenting the residents’ educational experience seems to be the best path going forward in assessing the development of young surgeons.

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