A structured self-directed basic skills curriculum results in improved technical performance in the absence of expert faculty teaching

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BackgroundWe developed a novel curriculum teaching 20 open surgical skills in 5 general domains (instrument handling, knot tying, simple wound closure, advanced wound closure, and hemostasis). The curriculum includes online didactics, skills practice, and defined performance metrics, but is entirely self-guided with no expert oversight or teaching.MethodsSubjects included first- and second-year medical students (n = 9). Subjects first viewed a demonstration video depicting proper technique. The pretest was video-recorded performance of each skill. Subjects then completed the self-guided skills curriculum at their own pace, returning for posttesting once they met defined self-assessment criteria. Performance was evaluated through both self-assessment and blinded video review by 2 expert reviewers using previously validated scales.ResultsAfter completion of the curriculum, performance improved significantly by both self-assessment (3,754 ± 1,742 to 6,496 ± 1,337; P < .01, Wilcoxon signed ranks) and expert assessment (10.1 ± 2.6 to 14.6 ± 2.7; P = .015). When analyzed by the 5 general domains, performance was significantly better for all domains by self-assessment (P < .05 for all domains) and in 4 domains by expert assessment (P < .04 for all domains other than instrument handling).ConclusionCompletion of a self-guided basic surgical skills curriculum allows novice learners to significantly improve performance in basic open surgical skills, without traditional expert teaching. This curriculum is useful for medical students and incoming junior residents.

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