Basic surgical skills testing for junior residents: Current views of general surgery program directors

Hilary A. Sanfey, Gary L. Dunnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Background: The American College of Surgeons/Association of Program Directors in Surgery Phase 1 Curriculum (ACS/APDS) includes evaluation of basic surgical skills for junior residents. It is unclear if basic surgical skills evaluation is incorporated into residency curricula or used for resident advancement decisions. Our aim was to identify the perceptions of general surgery program directors (PDs) on the importance of basic surgical skills training and evaluation. Study Design: Thirty PDS were invited to participate in a telephone interview. PDs were chosen for diversity of program location and size and asked to comment on their use and perceptions of basic surgical skills curricula, and evaluation. Results: Twenty-two interviews were conducted with 23 of the total 30 invited PDs who agreed to participate. The mean number of residents graduating annually was 6 (range 2 to 12) per program. Ten of 22 (45%) PDs used the ACS/APDS curriculum, and 5 (23%) PDs were unaware of its existence. Only 4 programs (18%) perform formal basic surgical skills evaluation with mandatory remediation. No PD would either prevent residents with demonstrable poor basic surgical skills from going to the operating room or use poor basic surgical skills as a reason to deny promotion. One institution required evidence of satisfactory central line placement skills for credentialing. Obstacles to implementation of basic surgical skills included a lack of time, resources, and validated tests. Sixteen (73%) PDs saw some value in skills evaluation generally, but only 41% saw basic surgical skills evaluation as important for junior residents. Conclusions: Implementation of a summative evaluation of skills will require considerable resources for PDs. This study suggests that scarce resources might be more usefully directed toward evaluation of operative skills of senior residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-412
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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