Examining the impact of surgical coaching on trainee physiologic response and basic skill acquisition

Surg Endosc. 2018 Oct;32(10):4183-4190. doi: 10.1007/s00464-018-6163-7. Epub 2018 Mar 30.


Background: We examined how problem-solving coaching impacts trainee skill acquisition and physiologic stress as well as how trainee sensitivity to feedback, known as self-monitoring ability, impacts coaching effectiveness.

Methods: Medical students completed a pre-training demographics questionnaire, a 12-item self-monitoring ability scale (1 = always false, 5 = always true), and baseline FLS Task 5 with physiologic sensors. After watching a laparoscopic suturing instructional video, students practiced the task for 30 min, either with a surgical coach, or alone, depending on condition. The coach logged frequency of coaching behaviors according to a task-specific coaching script. Trainees then completed FLS Task 5 with physiologic sensors, a post-training questionnaire, and a 12-item coaching quality evaluation (1 = poor, 5 = very good).

Results: Twenty-four students (age 24.5 ± 1.4; 54% men; 58% MS4) participated in the study. All were fairly high self-monitors (3.8 ± 0.76). No differences in baseline suturing skills between the groups emerged. Improvement in the coaching group's suturing (N = 12; 285.0 ± 79.9) was significantly higher than the control group (N = 12; 200.9 ± 110.3). One measure of physiologic stress (rMSSD) was significantly higher in the coaching group. Trainees who received more coaching demonstrated larger improvements (r = 0.7, p < 0.05). Overall ,perceived quality of the coaching relationship was high (4.4 ± 0.6). There was no correlation between trainee self-monitoring ability and skill improvement.

Conclusions: This work suggests that coaching may increase heart rate variability of trainees, indicating coping well with training. Trainee disposition toward feedback did not play a role in this relationship.

Keywords: Coaching; Eustress; Physiologic stress; Self-monitoring; Stress.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Female
  • Formative Feedback
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / education*
  • Laparoscopy / psychology
  • Male
  • Mentoring*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self-Assessment
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult