Training surgical residents: the current Canadian perspective

J Surg Educ. Nov-Dec 2011;68(6):547-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2011.05.018. Epub 2011 Sep 8.


Background: Numerous constraints may limit the practical experience of surgical residents. Current research supports a need for structured curricula, skills acquisition, and feedback outside the operating room (OR) and formal assessment of technical skills. We examined the current state of surgical skill teaching and evaluation for Canadian residents across surgical specialties.

Methods: One hundred twenty-three surveys were mailed to surgical residency program directors of all 17 Canadian medical schools. Nine surgical specialties were identified. Program demographics, details of surgical skill teaching methods, and several surgical skill assessment modalities used from admission to graduation were surveyed. Obstetrics and Gynecology (ObGyn) survey results were compared with other surgical specialties.

Results: Seventy surveys (57%) from 15 medical schools (88%) were returned. All specialties were represented in responses. ObGyn residents had fewer surgical training months per year than other residents (4.9 versus 8.5 months; p = 0.001). The most common teaching method was didactic lectures (86%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 75%-93%) for all programs. Inanimate and/or animate skills laboratories and didactic lectures were equally used by 90% (95% CI, 55%-100%) of ObGyn programs. Virtual reality simulators for procedure-specific surgical skills ranked low at 30% (95% CI, 7%-65%) use in ObGyn programs. Most programs had a dedicated space to teach and practice skills outside the OR. Assessment, feedback, and determination of surgical competence were most commonly performed via subjective evaluation by surgical mentors. Forty percent of ObGyn programs versus 76% of other programs used a local program-specific surgical training curriculum (p = 0.054). Most program directors who did not have access to a standard training curriculum wished to have one implemented.

Conclusions: Lectures and subjective evaluations are the most common educational tools in Canadian surgical residencies. Despite the availability of validated surgical teaching and evaluation tools remote from the OR, standard training curricula are not the norm in Canadian ObGyn residency programs.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Internship and Residency*