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Undergraduate teaching of surgical skills in the UK: systematic review

Glossop, Sean C., Bhachoo, Hari, Murray, Thomas M., Cherif, Rayan A., Helo, John Y., Morgan, Evie and Poacher, Arwel T. 2023. Undergraduate teaching of surgical skills in the UK: systematic review. BJS Open 7 (5) , zrad083. 10.1093/bjsopen/zrad083

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Background: Students must be proficient in surgical skills according to General Medical Council and Royal College of Surgeons of England guidelines. If these skills are not appropriately taught, there is a risk of an incoming junior workforce with inadequate surgical skills. This paper aimed to review the literature relating to undergraduate teaching of surgical skills in the UK and summarize future suggested training methods. Methods: The databases MEDLINE, Embase and SCOPUS were searched, and the existing literature relating to methodology of undergraduate teaching of surgical skills in the UK over the past 10 years was summarized. The Medical Education Research Quality Instrument was used to assess research quality. Results: A total of 19 papers were included. Cross-sectional evaluations and survey-based studies highlight a clear deficit in surgical skills teaching in the UK. Medical students are currently unable to fulfil their own learning needs and meet requirements set out by the General Medical Council. This lack of surgical teaching appears to negatively affect student desire to pursue a surgical career. The three main themes for improvement are extracurricular surgical skills days, near-peer teaching and simulation. Each method appeared to improve learning, although no studies utilized medium- to long-term follow-up to demonstrate efficacy and there lacks a clear consensus as to the ‘standard’ of undergraduate surgical skill education. There was also potential for selection bias and response shift bias in many of the studies assessing pre- and postintervention confidence and opinions. Conclusion: There is a concerning lack of surgical skills teaching that has resulted in medical students and junior doctors not having the necessary surgical skills as per General Medical Council guidance and students feel that their own learning needs are not met. This failure to address the learning deficit may be responsible for the fall in surgical competition ratios. While surgical skills teaching must be improved urgently, more robust evidence is required to evaluate the optimal ways of approaching this issue.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: cc-by
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 December 2023
Date of Acceptance: 13 July 2023
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2023 10:15

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