Teaching surgeons about non-technical skills

Surgeon. 2007 Apr;5(2):86-9. doi: 10.1016/s1479-666x(07)80059-x.


Background: Analyses of adverse events in surgery reveal that underlying causes are often behavioural, such as communication failures, rather than technical. Non-technical (i.e. cognitive and interpersonal) skills, whilst recognised, are not explicitly addressed in surgical training. However, surgeons need to demonstrate high levels of these skills, as well as technical proficiency, to maximise safety and quality in the operating theatre. This article describes a prototype training course to raise surgeons' awareness of non-technical skills.

Methods: The course syllabus was based on a new taxonomy of surgeons' non-technical skills (NOTSS) which has four principal categories: situation awareness, decision-making, communication and teamwork, and leadership. Three, one-day training courses were attended by 21 surgeons.

Results: All surgeons reported that they found explicit review and discussion of these skills and component behaviours helpful for self-reflection. They rated the content as interesting and relevant and the majority declared their intention to make some changes to their behaviour during surgery.

Conclusions: It was concluded that this type of training could enhance the surgical training portfolio and should be an integral feature of the development and assessment of operative skills.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Awareness*
  • Communication*
  • Curriculum*
  • Decision Making*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Program Evaluation