Background: Curricula for surgical technical skills laboratories have traditionally been designed to accommodate the clinical activities of residents, so they typically consist of individual, episodic training sessions. We believe that the skills laboratory offers an opportunity to design a surgical skills curriculum based on the fundamental elements known to be important for motor skill instruction. We hypothesized that training novices with such a curriculum for a 1-month period would yield skills performance levels equivalent to those of second year surgery residents who had trained in a traditional program. Study Design: Fourth-year medical students served as study subjects (novice group) during a 4-week senior elective. They were taught each skill during a 1-week period. Subjects received instruction by a content expert followed by a 1-week period of deliberate practice with feedback. The novice performances were videotaped both before and after the intervention, and each videotape was evaluated in a blinded fashion by experts using a validated evaluation instrument. These results were compared with skill performance ratings of first- and second-year surgery residents that had been accumulated over the previous 3 years. Results: Average performance ratings for the novices substantially improved for all four skills after training. There was no marked difference between average performance ratings of postintervention novice scores when compared with the average scores in the resident group. Inter-rater agreement in scoring for the videotaped novice performances exceeded 0.87 (intraclass correlation) for all ratings of pre- and posttraining. Conclusions: These results demonstrate the effectiveness of a laboratory-based training program that includes fundamentals of motor skills acquisition.
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